Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland men’s basketball ousted by Virginia Tech, 62-58

By Noah Ferguson

Hakim Hart located an inbound pass on the right wing, lining up an open three-point look with the game hanging in the balance. Hart rose and fired, only to have his shot clang off of the back iron and into the arms of an awaiting Hokie defender.

Hart’s crucial miss proved to be the spoiler of a night dedicated to the life and legacy of Maryland legend Len Bias, as the Virginia Tech Hokies escaped the Xfinity Center with a gritty 62-58 victory over Maryland basketball in College Park.

“Obviously we’re disappointed, this was a special night,” head coach Mark Turgeon said following the loss. “We wanted to win for [Len Bias], we wanted to play great for him, and we weren’t able to do it.”

Wednesday evening’s Gold Rush game started out at an exhilarating pace, as the Terps and Hokies each exchanged three-point baskets in the opening seconds of the first half. 

Maryland center Qudus Wahab set a rowdy Xfinity Center crowd ablaze early, slamming home a powerful dunk before converting on an and-one opportunity on the ensuing possession. Wahab, who scored just seven points in the Terps’ recent loss to Louisville in the Bahamas, notched 14 points on 6-7 shooting in just the first half to lead all scorers at the break.

“Our offense was a lot better when he was in the game,” Turgeon said of Wahab’s impact. “That was clearly obvious to everyone there… it was a hard matchup for him tonight, [and] the kid played well.”

But despite Maryland’s early offensive barrage, Virginia Tech quickly settled into the Big Ten/ACC battle.

Forward Justyn Mutts came alive for head coach Mike Young’s squad, converting on both of his three-point attempts en route to an 11-point first half outburst. The Hokies cashed in five of their ten first half three-pointers, an efficient 50% clip for a team that strolled into a hostile College Park environment.

“I thought we fought like crazy in here tonight, which sustained us in the first half,” Young said of his team’s intensity.

Conversely, Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon’s squad couldn’t find its rhythm from behind the arc in the opening half.

After forward Donta Scott swished home a triple on the Terps’ first possession, Maryland missed its next seven three-pointers to close out the first period. Eric Ayala, Maryland’s stoic leader from the wing, was held to just two points on 1-3 shooting as Virginia Tech jogged to its locker room holding a 31-29 advantage.

“I gotta do a better job with [Ayala], they did a really good job of guarding him,” Turgeon said. “He can usually get downhill, and he couldn’t get downhill, he couldn’t get by his guy, he couldn’t spin off his guy.”

Turgeon’s squad emerged from its tunnel with a reinvigorated energy on defense to start the second half. Freshman forward Julian Reese rejected two quick Hokie shot attempts, helping to hold Virginia Tech to a dismal 1-12 in the first eight minutes of the second period.

Reese continued to make his presence felt in the paint off the bench, slamming home a two-handed dunk to open up a seven-point Maryland lead. Sensing the Terps’ newfound offensive rhythm, Young burned a timeout to talk things over with his squad.

The Hokies soon found their footing, bursting out of their second half slumber with a three-point make from junior guard Hunter Catoor. Catoor’s bucket, followed quickly by a second-chance layup courtesy of forward David N’Guessan, set the stage for a contentious end to Wednesday evening’s bout.

“They made big shots, so [we] have to give credit to them for knocking [them] down,” Scott said.

With Maryland clinging to a slim four-point advantage, back-to-back Keve Aluma buckets knotted the game at 46 apiece. Moments later, a Maryland turnover led to a Nahiem Alleyne three-pointer.

And this time, it was Turgeon who called a timeout to stop the bleeding.

Both teams battled down the stretch, exchanging tough shots as the palpable energy of the Xfinity Center crowd reached its climax.

With the clock winding down and the Hokies holding a one-point advantage, a smooth Virginia Tech layup gave the Terps one last chance to force overtime. But as Hart’s shot clanged wide, a sea of gold jerseys exited the Xfinity Center having witnessed a heart-wrenching defeat.

“We’re better in a lot of phases,” Turgeon said. “But we’re not good enough to beat good teams.”

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