Students streamed onto the Comcast Center court Wednesday evening, Maryland's lengthy drought against ranked teams over at last.
Mark Turgeon didn't need the history lesson. He invoked the fairly recent past, though, one that felt so close and so far away for the Terrapins as they ponded a 51-50 defeat of No. 14 N.C. State.
"We haven't won a big game since Greivis was here," Turgeon said, and he was spot-on in mentioning Greivis Vasquez.
It really was three years ago --- OK, two years, 10 months and 13 days if you want to be a stickler --- since the Terrapins snagged anything resembling a landmark victory. It didn't happen in Vasquez's final NCAA tournament thanks to one buzzer-beater. It didn't happen in what became former coach Gary Williams' swan song, with close-but-not-quite become that team's signature.
And it certainly didn't happen last year, when a victory over NIT-bound Miami qualified as the Terps' emotional high.
How it was achieved probably doesn't matter for Maryland (14-3, 2-2 ACC), which conquered the 50-point plateau only on Alex Len's tip-in with 0.9 seconds remaining. The game, in and of itself, reinforced two present-day realities.
The Terps can defend the snot out of anyone. And their offense remains downright agonizing to watch against remotely capable opponents, a designation for which N.C. State (14-3, 3-1) more than qualifies.
Turgeon, ever candid, knows this. In a postgame session that at times was befitting a coach on the wrong end of a last-second win, he bemoaned Maryland's inability to run plays out of timeouts, to absorb all of the wrinkles he would like to install and a complete uncertainty whether a revamped starting lineup would work.
But there was no disputing the potential upshot of a victory, which was why he went around the locker room before tha game and asked player after player after player just why they came to College Park in the first place.
"He told us if we want to make it big this year, we have to win this game to bounce back --- which we did," Len said.
Len chuckled knowingly, but Maryland just as easily could have limped out with its third straight loss after squandering a 10-point lead in the second half. Turgeon, as much as anyone, intuited how fortunate the Terps were to survive.
Instead of upscreening on the final play, the Terps downscreened. Pe'Shon Howard drove into the lane, giving Turgeon hope something good would happen. It did, only it required Len to collect Howard's airball and drop it in for the go-ahead score.
"He said it wasn't miss," Len said. "He said it was a pass."
(For what it's worth, the final statistics listed it as a missed jumper for the junior. Box score don't lie).
And so brought an end to Maryland's 17-game losing streak to ranked teams, one that dated back to Vasquez's final appearance as a player in College Park. The length of the drought was, in calendar days, the program's longest against ranked foes since a stretch from 1965 to 1971.
It wasn't difficult to summon the past Wednesday. Maryland, though, would like to believe its victory reflected well on the future.
"I came here to do great things," Turgeon said. "We haven't done a lot of great things since I've been here. This is one great thing and hopefully it's going to lead to many other things and help us in a lot of different areas down the road."
So if the recent past is forgettable and the future is promising, what can be said about the present? That's a far murkier issue, one Maryland has yet to define despite easily its most impressive victory of the season.
Turgeon trotted out two freshmen and three sophomores to start Wednesday, which says plenty about the state of the Terps' program. Maryland played ugly and lost at Miami on Sunday, then played slightly less ugly and beat N.C. State.
Up and down the Terps figure to go, though their latest victory provides at least the start of building a profile certain to face scrutiny exactly two months from now when the NCAA tournament's 68-team field is unveiled.
"This is a great group we have," guard Seth Allen said. "I feel like we could do that. We really want to hang a banner up like everybody else."
Look toward the ceiling at Comcast Center, and the last team to earn a banner was the Terps' 2009-10 edition. They were the last to beat a ranked team, the last to provoke a court-storming.
Only one current player was part of it. Local product Nick Faust, then a college junior, wasn't in attendance as a recruit.
"Pe'Shon was here," Faust said. "He told me. They started rioting."
Then he smiled mischievously.
"I hope they riot," he said jokingly.
Not yet, not after a single mid-January triumph. An escape of the Wolfpack guarantees nothing for Maryland and doesn't solve the team's biggest problems. But it might just be a start --- perhaps of something bigger than the Terps have enjoyed in what feels like quite some time.
--- Patrick Stevens