COLLEGE PARK--How serious is it? Harvard even did a study on it.
Should a coach have his team intentionally foul when leading by three points with under ten seconds to play? Are they more likely to win by letting the team take a three for the tie or by forcing the opposition to hit a free throw and hope for a fortunate bounce that gives them a second opportunity to tie?
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon was firmly grounded on one side of the fence when it came to the issue. At least he thought he was when the situation arose in regulation of Sunday’s game against No. 5 Virginia with his team leading, 64-61, in the waning seconds.
But something about this season, its oddities, and its narrow defeats changed Turgeon’s mind.
“Guys, I don’t ever foul,” he told the media after Maryland’s 75-69 win over the Cavaliers. “But it’s been the strangest year I’ve ever been a part of and I did it backwards. I said, ‘Well, I’m going to do things backwards today because we haven’t won any close games.’”
He chose to foul Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon with three seconds to play, but the plan ultimately backfired after a made Cavalier free throw on the first attempt and a miss on the second, then a tipped rebound went out of bounds and helped Virginia to retain possession.
That extra possession off an inbounds play led to an Anthony Gill layup at the rim with less than a second to play to tie the game at 64-64. Students at Comcast Center, crowding into the aisles in anticipation of a court storm, were forced back to their seats to endure an overtime.
“Our guys were down. We were down. I was down. I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Turgeon recalls of the huddle after the basket that forced overtime.
“Guys, that’s on me. I never foul, but I did,” he recalls telling his players. “You didn’t get the rebound, but I called the foul. Let’s make this the best five minutes of the year.”
And Maryland did. Sophomore guard Seth Allen came alive in overtime, forcing his way to the basket and scoring five points in the first 2:40 of the extra period. Jake Layman’s 4-of-4 shooting from the line sealed it down the stretch.
“All the stuff we’ve been through has made us really tough,” Turgeon said. “It’s made us a lot tougher. It’s going to help us in the future.”