You have to hand it to the Terps, they sure know how to make an early round game interesting! What we figured would be one of the least competitive of the day's four games in Greensboro turned out to be way too close for comfort, as #9 Wake Forest very nearly pulled off an upset of #1 Maryland. For about 30 minutes, the Demon Deacons played like a team possessed, while the Terps looked like a team sorely in need of an exorcist.
You know things are looking bleak for the top seed when the question that's being flashed on the Jumbotron late in the second half is: "When was the last time the Number One seeded team lost on the first day it played?" Fortunately for the Terps, and their fans, that answer remained "Never!" as Maryland was down, but not out. With about 10 minutes remaining, the Terps turned up their defensive intensity and, on the offensive end, chipped away at a 12-point deficit until finally building a 5 point lead with just a few seconds left in the game. Wake hit an uncontested three-pointer at the buzzer, and Maryland won by two, 72-70. Whew! The Terps showed once again today that they have a lot of heart.
The three other games played today turned out to be pretty lopsided. The Clemson Tigers played one good half of basketball against the Tar Heels, but had nothing left after the break and lost 55-74. (Maryland will face Carolina tomorrow at 1 PM in the first semi-final.) The game that we thought would be the most competitive, the match between Florida State and Boston College, was all 'Noles, 83-71. That tough Eagles team that battled Maryland in both of their games this season seemed to have flown the coop, and the Seminoles looked like the ACC Regular Season Co-Champs that they are. And as for the final game today, between Virginia and Duke, well, at halftime Duke was ahead, 42-25, and many of the fans (including the BasketCases) who'd been in the arena for the past 10 hours decided it was time to call it a night. (Final score: 76-53.)
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In other (happy) news . . . Maryland's own Kristi Toliver was named ACC Player of the Year today!
It should come as no surprise to any objective observer that this honor would be given to one of the Terps' two superstar seniors, the other of course being Marissa Coleman. Indeed, in the days leading up to today's announcement, the only suspense was: which one would it be? Both KT and Marissa were named on Monday to the All-ACC First Team (congratulations!), and it takes nothing away from KT's extraordinary accomplishments to recognize Marissa's own extraordinary achievements this year as well. In our idle moments this past week, the BasketCases have debated who we would have voted for if the ACC had allowed us to vote, and we went back and forth on this innumerable times, disagreeing with each other . . . and with ourselves. If left up to us, the vote might've ended in a tie. But it wasn't and it didn't, and there's no question that Kristi is well-deserving of this honor and fitting capstone to her college career.
And, assuming the box score of today's game against Wake is correct (we were having enough trouble breathing during the game to keep track ourselves) and Kristi in fact dished out 6 assists, she now has a career total of 730, which moves her right past Nikki Teasley (728) and the legendary Dawn Staley (729) into second place on the ACC list of all time assist leaders. (Sharnee Zoll is number one, with 779.) This is a huge accomplishment, particularly for someone who is also such an incredible scorer. Another congratulations KT!
Congratulations are also in order for Marissa, who today became only the second player in ACC history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 200 steals, and 100 blocks (and counting)! Way to go, Marissa!
Top Photo Credit: DC BasketCases