Well, if we was pitchin horseshoes, it would have been enough. It would have been like a leaner. But as it is, after losing 65-63 to #10 Wake Forest on Big Dave Neal’s senior night (more on him later), the 18-11 Terps must win their regular season finale this Saturday at Virginia and then make some noise in the ACC tournament, or else their postseason hopes are dead and buried.
The Terps played with a lot of heart and a lot of focus, but Wake was just better. In the second half, Wake locked down on defense, used their size, got into the lane, and just put it to us. A lot of fans love to say the Terps can lose to anyone and beat anyone. But I don’t think that’s true this year…yeah, we caught UNC, but we’re 2-6 against teams with a top 25 RPI.
What can you say? This is an easy team to solve. Every close observer knows the team goes as Vasquez goes. He played great in the first half, but overall shot 7-24. Every observer also knows we are overmatched in the post. Wake outrebounded us by 18. You can’t win that way.
It’s kind of sad, though, that the gaudy rebounding stat and a few highlight reel plays overshadowed the inspired effort of one Big Dave Neal. Big Dave, who scored a team-high 19 points, hit a three at the end of the first half to put the Terps up by seven, and who could forget those three straight threes in the second half. If the Terps had won, that performance would have made Big Dave Neal a folk hero. (Well, more so.) Big Dave was never supposed to be a D-1 starter. He was forced into duty this season and has performed admirably. He has been outplayed, but never outworked. He has been bloodied, but never bowed. He knows he’s fortunate to have done this, and he had fun with it. Whatever path he takes after basketball, I believe he’ll do something good with himself.
But his storybook Senior Night wasn’t to be, and now the Terps are in a big hole. They’re better than UVA on paper, but they’re also 2-5 on the road, and UVA always gets up for Maryland. They know they can spoil their rivals’ season. It’s all the more important considering that the selection committee likes to see you play well in your final 12 games, and Maryland is 5-6 in their last 11. It’s not dark yet, but it’s gettin there.
(Photo credit: UMTerps.com)