To follow up on the top 10 Maryland football moments of the last decade, here’s 10 notable accomplishments for the Terrapins’ men’s basketball program in the Aughts.
No. 1 is easy to guess. Most of the other moments are easy to figure out, too. Putting them in order is another matter.
Onward to the inevitable inclusion of a big shiny trophy earned in Atlanta …
10. No. 1 Tar Heels toppled at home (2008): As in the football list, the first spot is reserved for a remarkable accomplishment in a season that didn’t quite measure up to most. Maryland ultimately landed in the NIT in ‘08, but it still went to the Dean Dome and knocked off the nation’s top-ranked team 82-80 in January. Bambale Osby and Dave Neal helped contain Tyler Hansbrough – at least making the star earn his points all night – as the Terps did just enough to fend off the Tar Heels. James Gist had 22 points and 13 rebounds, plus an assist to Osby on the winning basket.
9. Maryland closes regular season on seven-game winning streak (2007): Left for dead at 3-6 in the conference, D.J. Strawberry and Mike Jones spurred on a late-season surge that featured sweeps of Duke and N.C. State and an upset of No. 5 North Carolina. The Terps stalled a bit in March – losing to Miami in the ACC tournament opener, then in the second round of the NCAA tournament to Butler – but the winning streak still was enough to ensure Maryland wasn’t residing in Bubbleville as March began for the only time in the last six years.
8. Maryland closes out Cole Field House with perfect home season (2002): The end was anticlimactic, the game much less memorable than the ceremonies afterward. But the lights went out on Cole Field House with a 112-92 pummeling of Virginia on March 3, 2002, capping a 15-0 home record in a season that ultimately led to the program’s greatest triumph.
7. Vasquez authors triple-double in upset of North Carolina (2009): Greivis Vasquez scored Maryland’s first 16 points. He finished with 35. Tack on 11 rebounds and 10 assists and factor in the level of competition – the eventual national champions – and it was arguably Maryland’s best individual single-game performance of the decade (if not more). The victory catapulted Maryland back into the NCAA tournament discussion, and an ACC tournament defeat of Wake Forest cemented what at one time seemed an unlikely NCAA berth.
6. The term “Dixon Indoor Stadium” is born (2000): It’s hard to believe Duke was “just” the No. 3 team in the country given how formidable the Blue Devils looked at the time. Maybe it was the 18-game winning streak, 31-game ACC winning streak and 46-game home winning streak. Juan Dixon, with his 31 points on 14-for-19 shooting, put an end to that with a 98-87 defeat of Duke that truly heralded the Terps’ emerging young core. The aftermath on campus also signaled the start of a well-deserved reputation for students to celebrate raucously and burn couches and other items after big games. Dixon went on to lead Maryland to another win at Duke the next season.
5. Steve Blake catches Jason Williams napping (2002): Yes, another Duke-related item. For all of the 2002 team’s accomplishments, its most memorable play during a 26-4 regular season was probably Blake’s savvy steal as Williams looked to his bench for instruction just before halftime of the Blue Devils’ final visit to Cole. In addition to firing up a virulent Duke crowd, Blake’s layup also gave Maryland a nine-point edge against the nation’s No. 1 team.
4. Drew Nicholas saves the day against UNC Wilmington in the NCAA tournament (2003): Perhaps the decade’s most underappreciated player came up the best shot of the last 10 years. Nicholas, who starred as a senior after Dixon departed, hit a walk-off shot at the buzzer to erase a one-point deficit and prevent the defending national champs from getting ousted in the first round.
3. The Passion of the Gilchrist plays out in Greensboro (2004): Maryland wasn’t a sure thing to make the NCAA tournament heading into the 2004 ACC tournament. John Gilchrist almost single-handedly made sure it wouldn’t be a problem. Gilchrist turned in the most dominant ACC tournament since Randolph Childress, carrying Maryland past third-seeded Wake Forest, second-seeded N.C. State and top-seeded Duke to win the program’s first league title since 1984. Regardless of how Gilchrist’s junior year unraveled, he’ll always have Greensboro – where he averaged 24.0 points and 6.7 assists over three days.
2. Maryland reaches its first Final Four (2001): Sometimes forgotten in how the following season played out is the sense of euphoria that engulfed College Park in 2001. After a wretched midseason stretch – the Gone in 54 Seconds game, the ensuing rout at Virginia, the Valentine’s Day Massacre against Florida State – the Terps won six straight only to be derailed in a classic ACC semifinal at the Georgia Dome against Duke. After an early tournament scare against George Mason, the Terps went down the list of knocking off an old coach (Georgia State’s Lefty Driesell), a local rival 3,000 miles from home (Georgetown) and a No. 1 seed (Stanford) before losing the season’s fourth meeting with Duke in national semifinals in Minneapolis.
1. A banner weekend in Atlanta (2002): The Juan Dixon/Lonny Baxter ended with a ball tossed toward the Georgia Dome roof as time expired in a 64-52 defeat of Indiana in the national title game. It was a prime weekend for Chris Wilcox (who handled Drew Gooden with ease in the semifinal against Kansas) and it ended with Gary Williams snipping some twine from a basket in front of a throng of Maryland fans. There’s no question everything the Terps have done in the seven-plus years since is measured against the national title – if only because Maryland cashed in its chance to reach the summit of college basketball.