To do this recap appropriately, I feel I should start with something of a confession. I am, first and foremost, a fan of a team that sits firmly above the red line, the Maryland Terrapins. I was raised on Maryland basketball, I am an alumnus of the University of Maryland, and I'm now a Maryland basketball season-ticket holder.
Yes, I'm totally guilty of looking at guarantee games for what they usually are in plenty of cases. You'll never hear me say things like "what's a Mount St. Mary's?" or assume that any team from the little Northeast Conference must be terrible, but that's not to say I don't expect somewhat lopsided results in some of Maryland's early-season contests.
With that said, as I walked through the wind and pouring rain to the Comcast Center this evening, I wasn't expecting much of a game. The Mount came in at 1-6, with only a win over desperately struggling Hartford to its credit. Maryland is in a bit of a transitional year and has had issues with teams below the Red Line, including a 26-point beatdown by Iona in Puerto Rico, but this figured to be not much of a contest.
The Mountaineers were down 13 at the half, but it was only that close because The Mount managed to pour in 3-pointers faster than the rain was coming down outside the arena. Mount St. Mary's hit six 3s in the first half and needed every one of them to counteract Maryland's blistering 60 percent mark from the floor in the first 20 minutes. Still, while the long-distance shooting from the visiting team was certainly troubling, in the minds of most of the home fans, this one was as good as done.
Which, naturally, it wasn't.
Mount St. Mary's continued to attack the 3-point arc, and as Maryland's shooting cooled, the lead started to shrink. Twelve became nine, and nine became six, as the Mountaineers poured in a few more from beyond the arc. A couple of forced turnovers led to baskets for The Mount on the other end, and the game was tied. Mount St. Mary's hit a pair of free throws after the under-eight media timeout, and the home fans -- myself included -- looked on in shock. The Terrapins had led by as much as 16. They were now losing.
The game became a back-and-forth affair, until Maryland's Terrell Stoglin hit a series of key shots to hand the lead back to the Terrapins. Still, the game was not out of reach. With 14 seconds left, Mount St. Mary's was down three. But The Mount couldn't find a shot that it wanted and instead went inside for a dunk with two seconds left, handing the ball back still down one. In-bounds pass, foul, free throws, desperation heave, buzzer, game over.
Mount St. Mary's, a team that had never lost by fewer than 28 points to Maryland, had nearly beaten the Terrapins this time around. But only nearly.
As I walked back out into the rain to head home, I found myself strangely pleased with what I had just seen -- far from the expected reaction after seeing my team nearly lose to a squad that few thought would put up a fight. Then it occurred to me; I had expected a ho-hum blowout and had instead gotten a truly entertaining basketball game. Results be damned. If you're not enjoying the game that you're watching, what's the point?
And for that, in a strange and totally unexpected way, I am thankful to Mount St. Mary's for nearly upsetting my favorite basketball team.
at MARYLAND 77, MOUNT SAINT MARY'S 74 12/07/2011
MOUNT SAINT MARY'S 1-7 (0-2) -- J. Norfleet 6-15 2-4 18; K. Parker 5-7 2-2 14; J. Castellanos 5-8 2-2 15; K. Krajina 0-6 2-2 2; R. Barber 6-8 0-3 12; D. Thompson 2-6 1-2 5; C. Holley 2-6 2-2 8. Totals 26-56 11-17 74. MARYLAND 5-3 (0-0) -- N. Faust 3-5 6-6 13; S. Mosley 2-8 4-4 9; T. Stoglin 8-15 7-10 23; J. Padgett 7-12 1-6 15; A. Pankey 4-8 5-7 13; M. Parker 0-0 2-2 2; B. Weijs 0-0 0-0 0; J. Auslander 1-2 0-0 2; J. Thomas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 25-35 77.
Three-point goals: MSM 11-21 (J. Castellanos 3-5; J. Norfleet 4-9; C. Holley 2-3; K. Parker 2-4), UMD 2-7 (S. Mosley 1-3; T. Stoglin 0-2; N. Faust 1-2); Rebounds: MSM 28 (D. Thompson 9), UMD 29 (J. Padgett 6); Assists: MSM 13 (J. Norfleet 6), UMD 13 (N. Faust 5); Total Fouls -- MSM 23, UMD 14; Fouled Out: MSM-R. Barber; UMD-None.