Mamadi Diane led Virginia with 23 points, including a key 3-pointer in the final minute.
Mamadi Diane ‘s senior season at Virginia hasn’t exactly been a fairy tale. His Senior Day? Now, that’s a different story entirely. Diane poured in 23 points including the go-ahead 3-pointer in the final minute to help the Cavaliers knock off Maryland on Saturday 68-63.
Diane flashed a broad grin when asked if there was any doubt the last shot was going in.
“Nah, not at all. Not at all,” Diane said. “It felt great. I mean as soon as I saw my man collapse on Sylven [Landesberg], I knew it was going to be a good shot and that he was going to pass the ball. I had already played it out in my mind. It was just finishing it.”
Teammate Calvin Baker had the same feeling.
“Everything was going good for him the whole night and the way he shot it, he shot it with so much confidence,” Baker said. “When he released it, I don’t know how it felt leaving his hands, but how his posture looked, I knew it was going in. I was just happy that it did.”
Diane had tried to provide the final offensive blow on the possession before his critical trey. Using a ball screen, he found his way into the paint and lofted a runner that caromed off the rim, leaving the game tied at 61-61. Good fortune found the Hoos on the defensive end, however, when Dave Neal’s open look in the paint also bounced awry to set up the final storybook moment for Diane.
After a UVa timeout, Diane passed the ball to Sylven Landesberg in the right corner and then relocated up the arch. Landesberg tried to create toward the middle of the floor and pulled the Maryland defense in as he approached the lane line. Diane, meanwhile, slid around the perimeter to keep the passing angles open and when Landesberg saw nothing but red in his path, he was ready. Diane took the pitch-back pass and canned the go-ahead shot.
“The past few games, everybody had been collapsing and they were doing the same most of the day so I knew if I attacked somebody would be open,” Landesberg said. “So I attacked and saw Mamadi open for a quick second, threw it to him, and he just knocked down a big-time shot.”
“I just told the team that when that 3-pointer went up the first thing I said was ‘poetic justice’ and two, that ‘god works in mysterious ways.’ There was no better way to finish off one’s career and season,” Virginia coach Dave Leitao said. “Obviously we needed Mamadi’s performance – it was timely and I think that not only Mo, but the rest of the team talked about the need to play with a higher energy level and I think we did that for the majority of the game.”
Maryland coach Gary Williams, who noted that Virginia hit some critical 3-pointers, said he knew a good game from Diane was possibility. And why not? Diane’s career-highs in scoring (26) and field goals made (9) came against Maryland on Jan. 16, 2007. This time around, he finished with 23 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block.
“I thought it was a possibility that Diane would play well on Senior Night but I’ve seen it go both ways. Some guys get tight and don’t get out of it during that game but he was tough,” Williams said. “He made some big shots and that is a nice way to end your senior year.”
While Diane produced a strong closing effort in the John Paul Jones Arena, he had plenty of help. The team held Maryland to 40.9% shooting, including a sluggish 22.7% from 3-point range. The Terps made just 15 of 40 shots in the second half.
Sylven Landesberg scored in double figures for the 22nd time this season
Individually, Mike Scott, Jamil Tucker , Baker, and Landesberg all provided key contributions on the afternoon. Scott posted his eighth double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds; Baker added 9 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds. Tucker chipped in with 7 points and 6 rebounds while proving to be a key outlet against Maryland’s fullcourt press by making good decisions with the basketball.
Landesberg, meanwhile, broke out of a scoring funk in the second half to finish with 14 points. Entering halftime, the freshman had just 2 points, which came on the heels of a 3-point outing at Clemson earlier this week.
“For the team, it was real important. It gave us a boost of energy, put some points up on the board for us, helped build our lead,” Landesberg said. “For myself, I’d say it was pretty important. I had been in a little slump and a lot of things were going through my mind, just being frustrated with the way teams had been playing me. It helped out a lot.”
Early in the game, it looked like the Terrapins might run away with things, much to the delight of a large and loud Maryland contingent. But Virginia switched to a match-up zone style defense and started to claw back into the contest. Williams said that the Terps didn’t handle that stretch well in their zone offense and the Cavaliers capitalized, closing the half on an 18-6 run. Diane scored 9 points during the surge.
“I feel like they’re so used to playing against man-to-man teams and we don’t run too much zone so when they were scouting us, I don’t think they predicted us to play as much zone as we did,” Baker said. “You could see they were a little unorganized and I felt like they were a little bit off-balance.”
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