This was another great match-up pitting a 4-seed in Maryland and 5-seed in West Virginia together with the winner getting tournament-favorite Kentucky and a chance to change the course of history. In a game that was back and forth through the first half, West Virginia was able to pull away in the second for a 69-59 win.
The game started out very evenly as Maryland went into the half trailing by only one point and seemingly being able to handle the Mountaineers suffocating full-court press despite a few turnovers. Melo Trimble paced the Terrapins with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Maryland on paper looked very good in regards to shooting the basketball but shooting isn’t everything, not even close. And Maryland was trying to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003, the year after they cut down the nets for a National Championship in 2002.
Despite not shooting that well from the field, West Virginia showed why suffocation defense can get you where you want to go. The Mountaineers came in leading the nation in steals (350), steals per game (10.9) and offensive rebounds (16.8). West Virginia’s full-court press gave fits to the Maryland players pretty much the whole game but especially mid-late second half. After going up by 8 with a little over four minutes left, Gary Browne controlled the tempo and the Mountaineers never looked back. Maryland turned the ball over on 35 percent of its possessions, its worst in the last four seasons while WVU forces a turnover on 28 percent of its possessions (2nd in nation).
Devin Williams for the Mountaineers led his team in points (15) and rebounds (10) but the night belonged to the whole team and its frenetic defense.
West Virginia takes on maybe unbeatable Kentucky in Cleveland, while Maryland’s season ends here but the Terrapins do return three starters, losing seniors Richard Pack and Dez Wells.