Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt walked off the court at the University of Maryland on Saturday feeling as if his team had played its best game of the year.
Not that it mattered.
The Yellow Jackets still lost.
"What are you going to say?" Hewitt said. "The kid made a miraculous shot."
That "kid" was Maryland junior Cliff Tucker, whose catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the left wing beat the buzzer and catapulted the Terrapins to a 76-74 victory. If Tucker's shot ends up being the most-famous in school history, it will rank only slightly ahead of the one uncorked by teammate Greivis Vasquez moments earlier.
Georgia Tech appeared to have won the game when forward Derrick Favors scored on a putback with three seconds remaining to give his team a three-point lead. Maryland inbounded the ball to Vasquez, who raced up the court and banked in a running bomb from just past the midcourt line as time expired.
One problem: Before Vasquez released the ball, Terrapins assistant Keith Booth had signaled for a timeout so Maryland could draw up one last play. Officials waved off Vasquez's shot and, following the timeout, gave Maryland the ball at midcourt with 1.5 seconds remaining.
That set the stage for Tucker, who caught the inbounds pass on the run, set his feet and fired up the game-winning trey. Tucker finished with eight points.
"Coach [Gary Williams] just drew up a play and we went out there and ran it," Tucker told reporters after the game.
A junior, Tucker entered the game averaging just 5.8 points.
"You need some breaks at times during the year," Williams said. "We got one there. We played well enough to be in a position to get that break."
Gary Johnson picked up the Longhorns.
Norm Roberts – The St. John's coach picked up his third win in four games when the Red Storm defeated South Florida. Roberts appeared to be on the hot seat a few weeks ago, but defeating Louisville, Notre Dame and South Florida in a 10-day span may have bought him another season.
Gary Johnson – On a night when most of his Texas teammates were dreadful, Johnson came up big by scoring a career-high 22 points in a 71-67 victory at Texas Tech. Dexter Pittman and Damion James – Johnson's mates in the frontcourt – combined for just 19 points.
Xavier Henry and Tyshawn Taylor – Henry snapped out of a severe shooting slump with a 24-point effort against Colorado. Taylor celebrated his return to the starting lineup following a nine-game absence by scoring 17 points and dishing out six assists. Kansas – which won it’s national-best 57th consecutive home game – needs big contributions from both players if it hopes to win its second national title in three years.
Butler – The Bulldogs won their 17th game in a row and are tied with Murray State for the longest streak in the country.
Demetri McCamey – Overshadowed in Illinois' 75-65 loss to Purdue was an incredible 16-assist effort by McCamey, which tied for the fourth-most in Big Ten history.
Florida – The Gators greatly enhanced their chances of ending a two-year NCAA tournament drought by defeating Ole Miss in Oxford. The victory was the fourth in six games for Florida, which improved to 19-8 overall and 8-4 in SEC play. The bad news: Three of the Gators' final four games are against ranked opponents.
James Anderson – The Oklahoma State standout continued this quest for All-American honors by scoring 31 points in a huge home win against No. 22 Baylor. Anderson made 5-of-8 3-point attempts and also snared 12 rebounds in a victory that should pay dividends when the NCAA Selection Committee fills out the brackets. Anderson has eclipsed the 25-point barrier 14 times this season.
Connecticut – The Huskies kept their NCAA hopes alive by winning at Rutgers, which apparently is no easy task these days. Just ask Georgetown.
John Henson – The only good thing that's come out of the injury to North Carolina's Ed Davis is that it's giving Henson, a freshman, time to develop so that he won't be as overwhelmed with his increased role next season. Henson had 11 points and seven rebounds in a 71-67 loss to Boston College and has averaged 10.3 points and 8.3 rebounds over his last three games.
Randy Culpepper – The UTEP standout – who is easily one of the nation's most-unheralded players – scored 29 points to lead the Miners to a 78-70 win at Tulsa. The victory gave Tony Barbee's team an 11-1 record in Conference USA and kept the Miners ahead of Memphis in the race for the league title.
John Holland and Ryan Thompson – A pair of relatively unknown players had big days. Holland, a guard from Boston University, had 43 points and six rebounds in a win at Delaware. Thompson, a guard from Rider, had 38 points six rebounds and six assists in an overtime loss to Hofstra.
Paul Hewitt may feel the heat.
Georgia Tech – All of a sudden a team that seemed like a lock to make the NCAA tournament is in jeopardy of being relegated to the NIT. The Yellow Jackets' last-second loss to Maryland dropped Georgia Tech to 18-9 overall and 6-7 in ACC play. At the very least, Georgia Tech probably needs to finish 8-8 in the ACC, meaning it needs to win at least two of its final three regular-season games. Paul Hewitt's squad still has to play Boston College and Virginia Tech at home and Clemson on the road. If Georgia Tech fails to make the tournament, then Hewitt's future needs to be called into question.
USC – The Trojans squandered an excellent chance to keep pace with Cal in the race for the Pac-10 title by losing to a mediocre Washington State squad 51-47 in Pullman. Even worse is that USC lost on a night when Washington State star Klay Thompson scored just two points while going 0-for-12 from the field.
Jeremy Hazell – Seton Hall's standout guard continues to struggle. He missed 8-of-10 field goal attempts and only scored nine points in a 75-63 loss to West Virginia. It marked only the fourth time this season that Hazell has failed to score in double figures.
Mississippi State – It's tough to feel all that great about a one-point, down-to-the-wire victory over an LSU squad that has yet to win a conference game. Four days after pushing Kentucky to overtime despite the absence of leading scorer Ravern Johnson, the Bulldogs were horrendous Saturday.
Siena – Losing to Butler 70-53 at Hinkle Fieldhouse means that Fran McCaffery's Saints will probably have to win the MAAC tournament to qualify for an NCAA berth. Luckily that tournament is in Albany, so Siena will have a good chance of taking home the trophy.
Colorado – The Buffaloes' 20-point loss to Kansas was their 35th consecutive Big 12 road loss and 15th in a row to the Jayhawks.
Jarrid Famous and Gil Gilchrist – South Florida is out of NCAA tournament contention thanks to an inexcusable home loss to St. John's. Famous and Gilchrist – South Florida's top frontcourt players – were particularly bad. They went a collective 2-for-10 from the field while combining for five points and eight rebounds.
North Carolina – The Tar Heels' loss to Boston College marked their ninth defeat in 11 games – and this one with Tyler Zeller back in the lineup. On the bright side, if Ed Davis passes on the NBA draft – which doesn't seem likely – North Carolina would have a solid lineup next season consisting of Davis, Zeller, John Henson, incoming freshman Harrison Barnes and either Dexter Strickland or Larry Drew, with the Wear twins coming off the bench.
Andy Kennedy – Fans can't be happy with the Ole Miss coach during an SEC season that continues to produce letdown after letdown. The Rebels are just 5-7 in league play after losing at home to Florida, which marked their fourth straight setback and fifth in the last six games. Unlike last season, Kennedy can't blame this year's collapse on injuries or youth. This team is too talented to be NIT-bound.
Wake Forest – Losing to red-hot Virginia Tech is one thing, but falling to arguably the worst team in the ACC is another. Yet that's exactly what happened when the Demon Deacons lost to 68-54 at North Carolina State.