Maryland men’s basketball players flocked to a raucous crowd after the final buzzer of Sunday’s game against Northwestern, holding up heart-shaped symbols with their hands and handing out high-fives to the Xfinity Center mob.
Coach Kevin Willard has carried the tradition of greeting the student section at the end of the game from his tenure at Seton Hall. The Terps also rushed to the wall of fans after Maryland’s conference-opening win against then-No. 16 Illinois.
“I’ve done it every year,” Willard said. “I feel like we have the best student section now, and they’ve come out and they’ve supported us. It’s a Sunday noon game, just wanted to say thank you. I think it’s very important.”
The Terps were not only celebrating a crucial win with fans in terms of the state of the Big Ten standings, but a victory in their final home game of the season at Xfinity Center — a court that’s become their fortress and propelled them to relevancy near the top of the conference table.
Maryland completed its Big Ten home slate undefeated for the first time since the 2014-2015 season, its first season in the Big Ten and finished Willard’s inaugural year 16-1 at Xfinity Center. Its only loss was the program’s worst-ever defeat in the arena against now-No. 4 UCLA.
The Terps sold out three games this year — all of which came in their last four home games — the first time they’ve had three or more sellouts since the 2016-2017 season. Maryland’s average attendance rose by almost 1,000 per game this season despite the Terps’ listed crowd number consistently decreasing over the past six seasons, apart from a slight bump in 2020.
That crowd has made its energy heard on multiple occasions this season, most memorably when it flooded onto the court at the final buzzer against then-No. 3 Purdue in Maryland’s first win over a top five ranked opponent since January 2016.
The Terps recorded their fifth win against a ranked opponent at home this season Sunday, launching a three-point assault with a season high 14 makes from deep on just 22 attempts to down the Wildcats on Maryland’s senior day.
Jahmir Young, Donta Scott, Hakim Hart, Don Carey and Patrick Emilien were all honored before the game. While Young, Scott and Hart all have an extra year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the last chance for Carey and Emilien to play in front of a home crowd.
Carey showed out in his last Xfinity Center game, notching one of his best performances of the season with 13 points on 4-for-7 shooting from deep. He blew a kiss to the crowd after one of his makes, showing his appreciation to Maryland’s fans in his last time playing in front of them.
“It's really a bittersweet feeling,” Carey said. “I just been sticking with it the whole time, to do that on senior night, that’s definitely something special. More importantly, I just think about the crowd, we got one of the best crowds in the country.”
The Terps’ 10-0 home record in conference play has given them the opportunity to clinch a double-bye in the Big Ten tournament, but they’ll need to overcome their putrid away record in their final two regular season games to get a pass to the quarterfinals.
Maryland is 1-7 on the road in conference play this year and has struggled at the end of close away games, with four of those losses coming by five points or fewer.
“We played pretty good on the road, we just haven't closed on the road,” Willard said. “It’s hard to win on the road in this conference. It’s hard. This group has gotten better on the road … I think they understand at times you have to grind it out. We have to do a much better job on the road lining it out a little bit, slowing it down.”
With no more home games this year, the Terps will hope they can quickly learn to take care of business away from Xfinity Center with their two remaining conference road games, the upcoming Big Ten tournament in Chicago and neutral-site matchups in the NCAA tournament on the horizon.