CHARLOTTESVILLE --- John Paul Jones Arena is a frightful place for Maryland, an arena home to a pair of miked-up rims, a team committed to defense and more than enough bad memories for the Terrapins.
It is not a place Maryland played particularly well in its first four visits.
But not this time. And not when the Terps so direly needed an emphatic performance.
"I know," guard Adrian Bowie said warily Thursday.
Bowie scored 22 points in a 66-42 rout of Virginia, Maryland's largest margin of victory in Thomas Jefferson's old stomping grounds in 81 years.
It was not a close call, like last year's lethargic regular season finale. It wasn't a potentially crippling loss, like the defeat at the end of the 2009 regular season. And it wasn't a dagger like the humiliating 2008 setback, which came after a week-long layoff.
"It feels great," Bowie said. "We had trouble last year. We had trouble two years ago. We lost two years ago. We lost three yeras ago. To come in and get a great win like this, it's a great feeling."
Even better is Maryland didn't absorb the sort of loss that could haunt it later in the season.
And let's be completely clear: Losses to Virginia, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech --- the Terps' opponent on Sunday in Atlanta --- could be a scarlet letter upon the resumes of any of the ACC's bubble dwellers. Maryland is 2-0 against that bunch --- triple-digit RPI teams, all --- with three more games to come before the regular season is through.
Maryland (13-7, 3-3) remains a team without great tangible accomplishments, but it again expertly navigated a potential pitfall with ease. Faced with an undermanned, undersized and inexperienced Virginia outfit, the Terps eventually cracked the Cavaliers' defensive code after a so-so start.
It is difficult to believe, in retrospect, Virginia once held a five-point lead. But in both the micro (a 14-1 Maryland spurt) and the macro (a 49-20 edge over a 25-minute span), the Terps pulverized the Cavaliers (11-9, 2-4) after figuring out how to handle a different defensive look.
To be sure, Virginia accomplished something no one meaningful had done all season: It slowed down Jordan Williams. The sophomore had four points and six rebounds, his double-doubles streak done at 13 games and under the best possible conditions.
After it became clear the Cavaliers' unwillingness to let Williams dismember them became obvious, it was on the rest of Maryland's roster to carry things. And that meant kicking it out to Bowie, Cliff Tucker (13 points) and Pe'Shon Howard (nine points).
"It was a little different," Bowie said. "We weren't used to that. At the same time, we wanted to keep getting it to Jordan. Once we realized Jordan was getting double- and triple-teamed, he had to realize he had to kick it out to us. Once we started doing that, we made open shots."
It just took a while. Maryland led 26-21 at the break, and Virginia remained within eight more than five minutes into the second half. Then Howard charged in for a layup, sparking a 17-7 burst to effectively finish off Virginia.
More significantly, it was a measure of creativity and court vision Maryland hasn't always received this season, but very much needed Thursday --- and will over the regular season's final 11 games.
"They threw a lot of guys at Jordan, and we were standing around in the first half and we started to move better," coach Gary Williams said. "Pe'Shon's cut for a layup, that was a big play because instead of me drawing something on the board, the players saw that."
They also saw a lopsided victory come in the least likely of venues. In four previous trips to JPJ --- all with Greivis Vasquez on their side --- the Terps had never played particularly well and won only once.
Heck, the Terps hadn't won by double digits in Charlottesville since 1975. There are few guarantees, but one Maryland could count on for more than a generation was its visits to Virginia would be harrowing.
But not on Thursday. Not when a comfortable and impressive victory was precisely what the Terps needed.
"You never, never, never expect that," Gary Williams said. "Last year, we played a game here that we had to win to tie for first place in the regular season. We were up the whole game, and that thing came right down to the end. It's something unexpected, and obviously it hasn't happened for 35 years. I had no reason to expect it."
But he happily took it back to the Terps' team bus, content with a victory Maryland had to have earned in a way no one could have possibly seen coming.