Maryland came into the game on an eight-game ACC losing streak dating back to this time last season, and early in the game, the Terps looked like they came to Blacksburg ready to play.
Maryland had an 18-8 lead in the first four minutes of the game, with eight points from Jake Layman, but it slipped away before halftime, when the re-energized Hokies held a 27-24 lead.
Head coach Mark Turgeon said after the game that his players were too hard on themselves, letting mistakes on offense to affect their play on defense, and vice versa, rather than brushing them off and moving on. He used the break to tell them to put on their big boy pants, telling his players, “I need men, not pouters.”
The Terps responded, reclaiming the lead within the first two minutes of the second half. The Hokies tried, but Maryland never relinquished their slight edge.
They were able to maintain that narrow margin, and extend it to an eventual 60-55 win, by – wait for it – hitting six free throws down the stretch.
For years, Maryland has had a chronic inability to make free throws, a costly problem to have in close games. For one reason or another, the Terps always seem to struggle to shoot, and in general, this game was no different. Maryland hit just ten of 23 shots from the foul line, but the team was 6-for-8 in the final minute. Alex Len and Nick Faust were both 2-for-2 as the game wound down, with Seth Allen making a critical free throw to extend the lead to four points and Dez Wells adding another with :02 left on the game clock.
Turgeon’s motivational halftime challenge may have helped his players refocus and grind out a road win for the first time in a full calendar year, but as usual in close contests, foul shots were the difference maker. This time, though, the Terps were the ones demonstrating that making free throws can add another notch in the “W” column. For Maryland fans who’ve winced at poor free throw shooting for decades, it’s a welcome change, and one they’d like to see stick around when the Terps head back to College Park to face Virginia on Sunday.