Ratcliffe: One last go-round in a century-old rivalry - Cavalier Insider: Cavalier Insider

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Ratcliffe: One last go-round in a century-old rivalry

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Posted: Sunday, March 9, 2014 12:15 am

Another century-old rivalry will bite the dust this afternoon when Virginia’s fifth-ranked basketball team crosses the Potomac for the last time. The 181st game between the Cavaliers and Maryland will be the final scheduled meeting between the two crusty old rivals.

After this season ends, the Terrapins will head to the Big Ten for fiscal reasons, leaving behind 60 years of history with the Atlantic Coast Conference. Maryland will not only abandon its roots, but also traditional rivalries.

Good luck filling up the Comcast Center with those future home basketball games against Nebraska and Northwestern. Yawn.

Virginia, like most of the ACC, hasn’t shed tears about Maryland’s exit. It has been more of a “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way out” attitude.

For some, it’s like leaving an old lover. “I don’t really like you, but I’m going to miss you.”

While the Virginia vs. Maryland clashes certainly emanated heat over the decades, it hasn’t been a feud of epic proportions. The Cavaliers considered North Carolina its chief rival for most of its ACC history, until Virginia Tech came along in the league.

The Maryland–Virginia rivalry was more one of convenience. Bordering states, only 126 miles apart, shared recruiting ground, alumni sharing office space, bar space. It always seemed like a bigger deal to the Terps than the Wahoos, probably because Maryland didn’t have any other natural rivals, although it developed one with Duke in basketball over time.

Yet there is enough disdain between the two fan bases to have added just the right amount of spice to the meetings. Maryland fans considered Virginia fans as bluebloods. Virginia fans considered Maryland fans as blue collar and foul-mouthed.

One former Wahoo said that every fan base has a bad apple but that Maryland has an orchard.

Still, the series has generated some unforgettable moments on the hardwood over the years, particularly since the Terry Holland vs. Lefty Driesell days.

Many a Wahoo’s favorite moment in the rivalry came on  March 6, 1983, Ralph Sampson’s last home game. They can close their eyes and call up the memory as if it were yesterday.

It was a huge moment in UVa basketball history, the end of the Sampson era, the guy who put Cavalier hoops on the map. The governor was there and tons of people showed up wearing tuxedos for the event. Virginia planned Ralph’s jersey retirement ceremony immediately following the game.

The old Lefthander had other plans. Although Driesell had coached Holland at Davidson and Holland had served under Lefty as an assistant coach at Davidson, the two called off their friendship during the games. Lefty wanted to spoil the day and nearly did.

Maryland led Virginia, 81-80 with seven seconds to play and Sampson going to the free throw line for two shots. He missed both. Out of nowhere, Cavaliers forward Craig Robinson tipped the ball back out to Sampson, who grabbed the ball and made a leaning jumper to win against the Adrian Branch and Len Bias-led Terps.

There were more battles between Holland and Driesell. Gary Williams came onto the scene in 1989, just about the time Holland was exiting and Jeff Jones continued the rivalry. Jones used to get a kick out of Williams’ antics of pacing the sidelines, red-faced, screaming and cursing, and sweating.

One of those memorable meetings came during Jones’ best season, 1995, when the Cavaliers routed the Terps 92-67 in University Hall. Junior Burrough scored 24, followed by Harold Deane with 19 and 3-point sharpshooter Curtis Staples adding 18 on a 6-for-12 shooting performance from the Bonusphere.

What Wahoo could forget the 2009 meeting, when Mamadi Diane had been relegated to the bench with playing time diminished by Dave Leitao, only for Diane to explode for 23 points in a Senior Day performance that won’t soon be forgotten. UVa 68, Maryland 63.

Along the way, Pete Gillen’s Virginia squad played the final game at Maryland’s Cole Field House in 2002 and suffered a lopsided defeat to Williams’ Terps. In 2006, Maryland spoiled UVa’s day and the final game at U-Hall in front of a reunion of the greatest Cavaliers who ever wore Orange & Blue.

And, so it will be today when Virginia plays against the Terrapins in Maryland’s last-ever ACC regular season game. There will be this week’s ACC Tournament, but it’s the last ACC game ever at Comcast.

Virginia fans would love to end the series with a seven-game winning streak.

Any Wahoo worth his salt will readily tell you that since then-new Maryland football coach Randy Edsall was introduced at halftime of a UVa at Maryland basketball game and uttered to the crowd, “Around here, we don’t lose to Virginia,” that the Terrapins haven’t beaten UVa in basketball.

Asked his feelings about Maryland’s ACC swan song this weekend, UVa’s Malcolm Brogdon put it this way:

“I don’t like Maryland,” Brogdon said. “I don’t care what happens to them.”

Justin Anderson can’t feel any love for the Terps either. He originally committed to Maryland but changed his mind when Williams announced his retirement from Garyland. Anderson chose Virginia and put an exclamation on his decision last year as a freshman upon his first appearance at the Comcast Center, leading the Cavaliers with 17 points.

The 100-year feud will come to an end today with no renewal in sight. Maryland could be matched with Virginia in future ACC-Big Ten Challenge events or perhaps in postseason play but there hasn’t been any indication from UVa about any future plans to play.

A century’s worth of battles will come to an end. The disdain for one another will not.

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