In what was one of the most thrilling basketball games in recent memory for the Virginia Cavaliers as they hosted the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday afternoon the resulting 92-89 double overtime loss stung a little more than normal. The Hoos battled all afternoon but came up short as they couldn't manage to hit their free throws almost all afternoon. There were some bright spots as the future looks extremely bright for the Hoos as some of their underclassmen stood tall at the end of regulation and the first overtime.
To open the game the lead changed hands a few times as the Maryland bunch found themselves recipients of open looks and the Hoos relied on the shooting of senior Devin Smith until fellow senior Elton Brown got it going in the paint. For the Terps John Gilchrist and Nik Caner-Medley would lead the way with 10 points and 9 points respectively in the first 20 minutes. The lead would get no larger than 4 points for either team and thanks to a three pointer by Gary Forbes with 16 seconds to go in the opening half the game was tied 30-30 heading to the locker room.
The second half would see the Hoos build a small lead for almost the first 10 minutes but that would change as the John Gilchrist and Chris McCray would sway the score in favor of the Terps. Over a five minute span the two guards scored 11 points during a 14-3 run by the Terps. The Hoos were down by as many as 8 points and things weren't looking good for the home team but Devin Smith and Gary Forbes showed some true resiliency as they would score the final 9 points in regulation for the Hoos in the last four minutes. Forbes in fact drained a three pointer well behind the line to send the game into overtime knotted at 69 all.
The Terrapins opened the first overtime with 7 unanswered points as it looked like they were going to end it quickly but once again the Hoos persevered once again. This time they turned to freshman Sean Singletary who put the team on his back and scored 8 points and handed out a crucial assist to J.R. Reynolds who nailed a three pointer from the right wing. Singletary was limping rather badly but remained in the game and the heart this young man showed wowed even the Terp faithful. The Philly native nailed his second three pointer of overtime with 10 seconds left sending the game into a second overtime tied at 82.
In the second overtime Gary Forbes fouled out as the Hoo faithful realized the Brooklyn native had been on a tear as of late and would not be available to provide more heroics once again. Singletary once again rallied the team and added an additional 4 points early in the second overtime but drew his 5th foul on a blocking call as Nik Caner-Medley cut to the basket with the Hoos leading 89-87. Singletary was clearly upset with the call and had to be escorted to the bench as the youngster's passion and determination for the game was also evident. Once again the fans sighed as yet another hero would have to watch the rest of the game on the bench. Caner-Medley made one of two free throws and then John Gilchrist calmly knocked down an open three pointer at the 1:18 mark to push the Maryland lead to 91-89. Ekene Ibekwe would be failed on a breakaway basket and made one of two free throw attempts with 20 seconds left. That set the stage for the Hoos to attempt another three pointer to try and send the game into a third overtime. The Terp defense denied the ball to the Hoos' best shooters/ballhandlers and allowed Elton Brown to catch it and the senior tried a three pointer that would miss the mark.
John Gilchrist lead the way for the Terps with 22 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists while Nik Caner-Medley finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. Terp sophomore Travis Garrison also came up big as he scored 20 points and 8 rebounds on the afternoon while Chris McCray also had a strong performance with 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Devin Smith delivered yet another impressive performance with 22 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots. Sophomore Gary Forbes came up huge again for the Hoos with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Forbes continues to improve each game and with the departure of Smith to graduation you can pencil in the Brooklyn native into next year's starting lineup.
Elton Brown had a solid showing on the afternoon with yet another double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. The senior however had a horrible day from the free throw line going 3 of 13.
For his gutty performance today our HooNation.com player of the game award goes to freshman Sean Singletary as he finished with 23 points and 9 assists. More importantly the young point guard committed only one turnover all afternoon and his play earned the respect and admiration of many. Maryland point guard John Gilchrist had this to say about Singletary, "he showed me a lot of heart and guts tonight."
The play of Singletary and Forbes offers little consolation to the fact that the Hoos will more than likely not being headed to postseason play but it does provide a solid base for the future. While Singletary and Forbes are gaining most of the spotlight now we all know sophomore J.R. Reynolds is capable of being a tremendous player once he overcomes some of his nagging injuries and regains his shooting confidence. Freshman Adrian Joseph also has shown some flashes of great things to come and will play a vital role once he returns from injury. Tunji Soroye hasn't received a lot of playing time but with a solid offseason he will battle for a starting position given his defensive and rebounding abilities. Sophomore Jason Cain has been inserted into the starting lineup and has given the team some much needed rebounding and energy on the floor. Fellow sophomore T.J. Bannister continues to provide great help distributing the ball and getting to the basket for easy shots.
Things may look bleak to many Hoo fans as we wait to see what happens with the status of head coach Pete Gillen but Gillen has quietly done a nice job putting together a nice core of players that have the potential to get a lot better over the coming seasons. Will Gillen be their head coach next season? That we don't know...regardless, whoever is at the helm will have a nice talent base to work with. Also incoming recruits PF Laurynas Mikalauskas and SG Mamadi Diane more than likely will be able to come in and contribute as true freshmen can provide some solace for Hoo fans. Both of these kids come from winning programs and have specific skills that will be needed in Charlottesville next year to relieve the losses of Devin Smith and Elton Brown.
The Hoos have a week off until they travel to Winston-Salem, NC to face the Wake Forest Demon Deacons next Sunday. After a performance such as Saturday's I expect the Hoos to go in and put forth a solid effort...their play of late has been inspiring compared to a few weeks ago and for that they should be applauded. The task will be difficult in Winston-Salem but stranger things have happened...just ask Kentucky and Kansas how their past week has been.