No miracle finish for Valparaiso as Maryland wins 65-62
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – As Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew was drawing up a plan to get the Crusaders the 3 they needed to send their NCAA Tournament game with Maryland into overtime, his father and former coach was in the stands, sketching a few options himself with a pen he borrowed from press row.
Bryce Drew didn’t need to call Pacer, the full-court pass his dad, Homer, used to get him free for one of the most famous buzzer-beaters in tournament history. He had 13 seconds left and the ball in the front court. But Valpo never got off a shot.
Maryland’s Varun Ram stripped the ball away from Keith Carter as he went up with Valpo’s last chance and Maryland held on for a 65-62 victory on Friday.
“I’ll take the blame for that,” Bryce Drew said. “We tried to do something different than we usually run. We wanted Alec Peters to have a chance to tie it. But they made a really good defensive play at the end.”
The fourth-seeded Terrapins (28-6), in the tournament for the first time since 2010, advanced to face West Virginia in Midwest Regional on Sunday.
Peters led 13th-seeded Valpo (28-6) with 18 points.
“Down three, we wanted a 3-pointer to extend it and take it to overtime,” Peters said. “They switched the screen and I was supposed to pop back for a 3 and they guarded it well.”
Carter improvised and went up for a 3 in the corner, but Ram reached in and swiped the ball away – maybe getting some of Carter’s arm in the process.
“I thought so,” Carter said.
Not Ram, a former walk-on who played only the last possession of the game. “I think I got it clean,” he said.
Wells finished with 14 points for the Terps, including that three-point play that made it 65-61. Melo Trimble had 14 points and 10 rebounds for Maryland, playing in its first NCAA Tournament under fourth-year coach Mark Turgeon.
The Terrapins were expected to be middle of the pack in their first season in the Big Ten, but instead finished second behind Wisconsin. They are now 11 wins better than last year.
E. Victor Nickerson dropped in a 3 with 6:37 left to tie the game at 49 for Valpo and make Maryland call a timeout.
The Terps got the lead back with a couple of free throws, and then Trimble snagged a Valpo pass in the paint, broke quickly the other way and found Damonte Dodd for a layup to put the Terps up 53-49 with 6:00 left.
But the Terps could never put away the Crusaders, who shot 12 for 27 from 3-point range.
“I think when we found out it was kind of difficult for us to drive over and over again, we had to stick to what we were good at and what we practice mostly in practice,” Tevonn Walker said. “And the 3-point shot was there.”
Walker, who scored 14 points, made one free throw with 1:00 left to make it 65-62, but Valpo couldn’t get its first NCAA Tournament win since Drew’s beat Mississippi with “The Shot” to spark a surprising Sweet Sixteen run in 1998.
Drew said it was easier to handle the excruciating losses when he was playing.
“You take it hard. But a coach, you don’t sleep very well for a long time. So you second-guess everything you do as a coach. As a player, you go out and work harder in the gym. And so for a coach I definitely think there’s more of that that sticks with you for a longer period of time,” Drew said.
Jared Nickens made four first-half 3-pointers to help Maryland to a 31-27 lead at the break. Three-point shooting and offensive rebounds kept Valpo close. The Crusaders were 7 for 15 from deep, including one right before the end of the half by Peters. Valpo was 3 for 19 from inside the arc, but the best rebounding team in the Horizon League had nine offensive rebounds.
Turgeon took Wichita State to the Sweet Sixteen in 2006 and guided Texas A&M to first-round NCAA victories in four straight seasons before coming to Maryland. … Jake Layman, Maryland’s third-leading scorer, managed only four points and took one shot in 25 minutes before fouling out. … Valpo’s Vashil Fernandez, who led the Horizon League with 3.0 blocked shots per game, had none against Maryland.
Valpo’s season is over after winning a school-record 28 games.
Maryland will try to reach the round of 16 for the first time since 2003 against West Virginia.