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November 25, 2013

Terps hang on to capture tourney title

For 28 minutes on Monday night, Maryland fans saw the team they envisioned ending their team's three-year NCAA Tournament drought. Then, the group they've watched in frustration this year showed back up.

The Terps built a 19-point lead and managed to hang on late to upend a formidable Providence squad, 56-52, to capture the Paradise Jam title. Maryland, who never trailed, used runs of 7-0 and 8-0 in the first half to jump out to a 12-point halftime lead in what was, by all accounts, a slugfest.

Evan Smotrycz had his second consecutive big night, nailing a pair of threes, grabbing 11 boards and pouring in 13 points for Maryland. He shared leading scorer honors with Dez Wells, who was 5-for-11 from the field and scored the Terps last four points to seal the win and capture tournament MVP. Charles Mitchell kicked in nine points and three boards off the bench.

After a Varun Ram trey at the 12:49 mark of the second half inflated the Maryland lead to 44-25, the Providence offense finally kicked into gear, scoring the game's next 12 points. They continued to apply pressure, but two was as close as they would get, as Wells scored eight of the final 11 Maryland points to hold off the previously unbeaten Friars.

The Terps (4-2) arrived in St. Thomas an embarrassed bunch after poor defense and a lack of urgency led to a disappointing 1-2 start. It would seem the condensed schedule of the Paradise Jam was just what the doctor ordered, as the Terps were suffocating on the defensive end again on Monday night, holding a normally methodical Friars' attack to 27.1 percent shooting. Maryland was also able to outrebound a tough Providence frontcourt 44 to 38.

Bryce Cotton, who led the Big East in scoring last year, scored 19 points for the Friars and spearheaded the Friars' desperate second half surge. Despite being ice cold throughout the night, the Friars found their way to free throw line on offense and converted on 17 of 21 attempts from the charity stripe to stay afloat.

The results were a little more mixed on the other end of the floor for Maryland. While they shot a paltry 36.2 percent from the field, the Terps took care of the basketball, committing only 11 turnovers. The results weren't there, but Mark Turgeon's group looked organized on offense for large stretches of the game - a pseudo accomplishment for a team plagued with point guard issues.

The shots didn't fall on Monday night, but the Terps accomplished what they set out to in St. Thomas. They played tough defense, enabling them to build sizeable leads on two good teams in Northern Iowa and Providence. The win was the third straight for Maryland and the first time this year they've strung together any sort of momentum. They will host Morgan State on Friday night before traveling to Columbus to take on No. 7 Ohio State next week.


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