The last time UNC-Wilmington and Maryland met on the floor, the stakes were much higher. The Seahawks, an 11 seed in the 2003 NCAA Tournament, were drawn against the Terrapins, who were defending their national title from the year prior. Led by All-Everything guard Brett Blizzard, and a perfect 8-for-8 performance behind the arc from freshman John Goldsberry - an NCAA Tournament record that still stands - UNCW found themselves five seconds away from a 73-72 upset victory.
And then the worst thing that could have happened DID happen.
A desperation heave at the buzzer by Maryland's Drew Nicholas sent the Terps further into March, while the Seahawks were left to wonder had just happened.
Fast-forward about eight and a half years, and the scene is much different. Both teams have recently experienced massive changes, and each program is left trying to pick up the pieces. On the Maryland side, Gary Williams retired after 22 years with his alma mater, leaving Mark Turgeon to try and win with a gutted roster that features a whopping six walk-ons. In Wilmington, Buzz Peterson led the Seahawks back to the middle of the CAA pack in his first season, but welcoming eight true freshmen to the program means continuing to rebuild will be quite a challenge
Forget about trying to win their respective conferences - with all of the upheaval, both teams would probably settle for simply staying out of the basement.
But on the first night of the 2011 season, things seemed oddly familiar.
Just as last time, the game was back-and-forth early on. Maryland would attempt to build a lead, only for a true freshman to appear with a clutch three-pointer to keep UNCW in the mix. Tonight, however, it was Adam Smith, not John Goldsberry, who played beyond his years to lead the Seahawks.
As before, Maryland padded their lead after halftime. As before, UNCW fought back to remain within striking distance. A lead that had been as large as 14 earlier in the second half was down to six with two minutes remaining.
As before, however, it was not to be for the Seahawks.
The finish this time may have been less heartbreaking, but it was no less frustrating. A blocked Seahawk lay-up, followed by a timeout to correct a bad inbounds setup, followed by a turnover allowed Maryland to salt the game away, winning by a 71-62 margin.
And thus, UNC-Wilmington is left with this cruelly ironic realization: on a night in which so much had changed about the two programs taking the floor, the one thing that the Seahawks would most have wished to have different was that which stayed the same.
at MARYLAND 71, NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 62 11/13/2011
NORTH CAROLINA-WILMINGTON 0-1 (0-0) -- A. Smith 9-19 0-0 23; C. Williams 3-10 2-3 8; K. Rendleman 2-5 1-3 5; D. Morales 1-3 2-2 4; C. Ponder 1-2 4-4 6; T. Deloach 2-5 0-0 4; T. Milson 0-2 0-0 0; F. Jackson 1-1 0-0 2; S. Reybold 0-1 1-2 1; K. Simmons 2-5 0-0 5; N. Anderson 1-2 0-0 2; M. Wilson 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 23-56 10-14 62. MARYLAND 1-0 (0-0) -- T. Stoglin 6-16 10-11 22; A. Pankey 5-10 3-3 13; J. Padgett 6-7 0-3 12; N. Faust 1-4 5-9 7; S. Mosley 3-8 2-2 8; M. Parker 2-4 1-2 5; B. Weijs 2-2 0-0 4; J. Auslander 0-0 0-0 0; J. Thomas 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-52 21-30 71.
Three-point goals: UNCW 6-16 (T. Deloach 0-1; D. Morales 0-1; N. Anderson 0-1; K. Simmons 1-4; A. Smith 5-9), UMD 0-9 (S. Mosley 0-2; M. Parker 0-2; T. Stoglin 0-3; N. Faust 0-1; J. Thomas 0-1); Rebounds: UNCW 28 (K. Rendleman 9), UMD 34 (A. Pankey 8); Assists: UNCW 12 (C. Ponder 4), UMD 7 (J. Padgett 2); Total Fouls -- UNCW 24, UMD 16; Fouled Out: UNCW-None; UMD-None.