Fear the Chortle:
The Most Crushing Terrapins Basketball Losses
This too shall pass. But for now it's passing like a particularly large kidney stone. In the wake of the Maryland Terps gut-wrenching last-second 85-83 loss to Michigan State on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - on a 3-pointer at the buzzer, no less - sports pundits and shell-shocked fans alike are calling it perhaps the toughest Maryland hoops loss ever. (Click here to watch Korie Lucious's buzzer-beater.)
God knows it's a long list - there have been so many to choose from! As Don Markus wrote in the Baltimore Sun the next day, "Having covered Maryland basketball on and off for the past 25 years, I know there were some other tough losses. But given the circumstances of the Terps coming back to twice take the lead in the final minute, to have Greivis Vasquez pass Len Bias on the scoring list during his final game of a memorable career, not to mention the fact that the road to the Final Four in the Midwest had been cleared of both Kansas and Georgetown, the ending of Sunday's defeat was as deflating as any I have seen."
Thankfully, I didn't didn't see the buzz-kill ending. Decades of Terps disappointment had prepared me for the high-hopes/let-down dichotomy that is Maryland basketball (with the exception of the 2002 season - when someone did us a favor and knocked Duke out the tournament, clearing the path for our lone title), so I was buying old Jerry Lewis DVDs at the Dundalk Big Lots store when Korie Lucious's 3-pointer went swish.
Mock Turtle Talk Soup
Before agreeing to call the Michigan State game the toughest loss in recent Maryland history, and maybe in school history, Markus offered up the following candidates for Terps fans to consider:
Duke 98, Maryland 96, Jan. 27, 2001 at Cole Field House.
Duke's comeback battered the Twerps
Don Markus: "I remember watching that game from a sports bar in Tampa the night before the Ravens beat the Giants in the Super Bowl. After Blake fouled out with 1:15 left in regulation, the Terps blew a 10-point lead in the final 54 seconds to goand were forced into overtime. Maryland students set bonfires afterward. The next day, Gary Williams fulfilled his promise to good friend Steve Bisciotti and flew down to Florida to watch the Ravens. The Terps recovered and went on to the first Final Four in school history..." (Click here to watch Duke's "Miracle Minute" comeback - if you can without getting nauseous.)
Duke 95, Maryland,84, March 31, 2001 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
All over but the pouting
"Watching from courtside as the Terps build a 22-point lead in the first half against the Blue Devils, I thought Maryland would get payback for that crushing loss earlier in the season. I was wrong. The end of that night's collapse (the biggest point-wise in Final Four history) came when, with Maryland trailing by five, Lonny Baxter was called for a "phantom" fifth foul with 2:48 left, prompting Williams to yell at Big East commissioner and NCAA tournament selection chairman Mike Tranghese -- and a close friend of the Terps coach -- 'How [expletive] bad do you guys want Duke in the final?'"
North Carolina State 103, Maryland 100, March 9, 1974 in the ACC tournament championship game at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Thrown to the Wolves pack
"Considered by many to be the greatest college game ever played -- though Len Elmore conceded some 18 years later that the Duke-Kentucky game was better in the 1992 East Regional final in Philadelphia -- it was the game that provided the impetus for the tournament field to be expanded to include teams that didn't win their conference or, in the ACC's case, the conference tournament. The Terps were ranked No. 4 in the country, the Wolfpack No. 1. After losing in overtime, Maryland turned down a bid to the NIT, still considered a prestigious event at the time."
That 2001 loss to Duke in the Final Four after blowing a 22-point first half lead will always stick in my crawl as perhaps the most crushing (because it was Duke!), but the beaten-at-the-buzzer aspect of Sunday's game (in which Maryland rallied from being down, at one point, by 19 points) made this Almost Hip Guy think back to a 1986 last-second loss at the buzzer against Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament.
If my memory serves me well, this was Lefty Driesell's final season, back when Len Bias was still alive, before Bob Wade and all the sanctions. And it hurt even more because the player who beat us was a local product - Duane Ferrell of Calvert Hall - who should have been playing for the Terps. I can still recall how I screamed at the TV set watching how the Terps had the ball and were all set for a game-winning shot. If only Terps guard Keith Gatlin's inbound pass to Len Bias hadn't been intercepted at the halfcourt line and taken down the other direction for a soul-crushing slam-dunk loss. So to Don Markus' list let me add...
Georgia Tech 64, Maryland 62, March 8, 1986 in the ACC Tournament semifinals at the Greensboro Coliseum. From the Baltimore Sun: "There's a payoff to all those times the coach gives a scouting report, or predicts an opponents' play in the huddle. Duane Ferrell will tell anyone that who wants to listen.
Georgia Tech and Maryland were tied in the final seconds of the 1986 ACC tournament semifinals. The crowd was deafening, as the two teams huddled around their coaching staffs. Maryland had the ball and time to run a potential game-winning play.
But, two decades later, Ferrell still has a good handle on what happened next.
'Bobby Cremins was our head coach and Perry Clark was our defensive coach,' says Ferrell, a Baltimore native who passed up the chance to go to Maryland to go to Georgia Tech. 'Perry had seen them run a play at the end of a game before, and he drew it up in the huddle.
'I was looking at their point guard, Keith Gatlin, take the ball out of bounds at mid-court. I took a look at everyone on the floor and they were lined up exactly how coach Clark drew it up. I don't know if anyone else realized it, but I didn't want to give it away that I knew. I knew the ball was going to be coming to Len Bias.
'Gatlin lobbed the ball inbounds, I beat Len to the ball, reached out and stole it. I tipped the ball out ahead of me. Gatlin was trying to catch me. All I was thinking was that I didn't want to kick the ball off my foot. I went up for the dunk, he grabbed my arm, but he wasn't able to stop me.'" Ouch!
Certainly the worst defeat in recent Terps history - and the worst of Gary Williams coaching career - was last year's 41-point loss to (who else?) Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke 85, Maryland 44, January 23, 2009 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. From the Baltimore Sun's Don Markus: "The loss was the worst Gary Williams has suffered in 31 years as a head coach. It was Maryland's fourth-worst loss in program history. It was the Terps worst defeat since falling to Army by 63 in 1944. It was the lowest point total Maryland ever has accumulated in 20 years with Williams in charge."