CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Two close road losses following a signature victory against Duke had the pressure mounting on Virginia, which knew it needed a victory in its regular-season finale to boost its on-the-bubble NCAA tournament hopes.
The Cavaliers got it without much to spare Sunday night, and needed the fifth-largest comeback in program history to do it.
Mike Tobey’s tip-in with 1:46 to play in overtime gave Virginia the lead and it held on to beat Maryland 61-58, giving the Cavaliers what they hope will be a push back into the field in the minds of bracketologists around the country.
“We probably paid attention to it too much,” Tobey said of the daily talk about whether the Cavaliers (21-10, 11-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) would make the field of 68. Close road losses at Boston College and Florida State made the prospects seem ever grimmer, Tobey said.
“That might be one of the reasons those last two games went the way they did,” the freshman said.
This one went that way for most of the night, too, before a 16-7 run late in the game pulled them even at 52.
A floater by Dez Wells with 23.8 seconds left put the Terrapins (20-11, 8-10) back in front, but Tobey got free on an inbounds play and laid in the tying basket with 5.4 seconds to go, and Justin Anderson’s block at the other end sent the game into overtime.
The teams traded baskets twice in OT before Tobey put back a miss by Akil Mitchell in front of the basket, a tip-in that gave Virginia a 60-58 lead. Two Maryland turnovers and a missed 3-pointer by Wells finished off the sloppy victory.
“It was one of those grind-it-out games,” said Joe Harris. “Sometimes you have to win ugly.”
The victory was Virginia’s 17th straight at home, and clinched the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye in the ACC tournament, where they will face North Carolina State or Virginia Tech in the quarterfinals on Friday in Greensboro, N.C.
Mitchell led Virginia with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Harris had 15, but on 4-of-18 shooting. Tobey added 13 points and six rebounds.
Nick Faust led the Terrapins with 15 points, but had 13 in the first 12 minutes, and Wells finished with 12 points on 5-for-18 shooting and 12 rebounds. Maryland shot 32.8 percent (20 of 61) and Virginia shot 36.8 percent (21 of 57).
“We just couldn’t make enough plays,” Terps coach Mark Turgeon said. “We had the ball all around the rim.”
Maryland missed repeatedly from in close, especially as Virginia slowly climbed back into it. The Terps shot 25 percent (8 of 32) from the field in the second half and overtime, and were outrebounded 28-20 after having a 24-12 edge at the half.
On Tobey’s game-tying shot in regulation, Alex Len tried for a steal, leaving Tobey with a clear line to the layup.
“We actually played smart the whole night,” Turgeon said. “We just didn’t play smart right then.”
Faust scored 10 of his 13 points during a 19-2 run early in the game and Maryland almost made it last, not letting Virginia get back to even until Harris’ 3-pointer went through with just 1:37 remaining.
Trailing 50-42, however, Virginia finally put some defensive stops and scoring together.
Tobey hit a free throw, and Mitchell scored on a drive for Virginia. After Tobey blocked Len’s shot from in close at the other end, Harris hit a pair of free throws to get Virginia within 50-49.
Faust, who hadn’t scored since the first 12 minutes, made it 52-49 with a 15-footer from the left baseline, and Harris then tied it, making his first 3-pointer since very early from the left of the key.
For most of the game, Virginia was trying to recover from a sloppy, at times futile start.
Maryland got 10 points from Faust as it used a 19-2 run to break away from a 6-all tie and take command in the first half. With both teams shooting poorly, Virginia outscored the Terps 11-7 over the last 8:15 to trail 32-19 at the half.
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