Just 24 hours ago, the Maryland Terrapins’ hopes were dashed. They found out they wouldn’t have a NCAA Tournament at-large bid. Their 22 wins, including two against Duke and a solid performance in the ACC Tournament, wasn’t enough for the NCAA Committee. Given only a day to recover from the news and little time to rest from the grueling ACC Tournament just a few days ago, the Terps (23-12) seized the opportunity to play in the NIT as a 2 seed and beat the 7-seeded Niagara Purple Eagles (19-14) 86-70 on Tuesday night at College Park.
Despite being left out of the Big Dance, the Terps didn’t hang their heads. They saw the NIT as an opportunity to extend their play and improve for next season. Players told reporters that they wanted to go deep in the NIT and not just be a one-and-done team. They saw this as a chance to grow and send their seniors off right.
The Terps met a fast-paced Niagara team fresh off a MAAC regular season title. The Purple Eagles kept up with the Terrapins in the first half, entering the locker room tied at 35. However, Maryland found its mark coming out of the gate in the second half, going on a 21-2 run and never taking their foot off of the gas pedal.
Nick Faust led the way for the Terps with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds. Logan Aronhalt and Seth Allen also had 15 points each. Pe’Shon Howard chipped in 6 assists. The Maryland bench also stepped up, scoring a whopping 42 points in the game.
For Niagara, Antoine Mason, son of former NBA player Anthony Mason, scored a game-high 24 points, while Ameen Tanksley had a respectable performance with 18.
The Terps return to action Thursday in the second round where they will host the winner of the Ohio-Denver game, which will be played late Tuesday night.