COLLEGE PARK, MD.--Almost 17,000 fans in the Comcast Center held their breath as Maryland basketball senior captain Sean Mosley walked to the free-throw line. After a double digit halftime lead over Virginia Tech had all but evaporated, the Terps needed a basket.
Mosley stepped to the line poised, knocked down three free throws and led the Terps to a home win the team desperately needed.
"Like a senior that's been there, he stepped up and made them all. And we needed every one of them," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said after the 73-69 win. "Sean was great."
Before defeating Virginia Tech, the Terps suffered a three-game losing streak. In each loss, the team played well, but effort did not equal wins. The losses came against good teams -- Florida State, Temple and Duke -- but the Virginia Tech game was a must-win for Maryland to continue visions of any sort of postseason berth.
Without Mosley's crucial free throws, perhaps the losing streak continues.
"Sean, he's been there. He's played in the NCAA tournament. He's played in the ACC tournament," redshirt freshman forward Ashton Pankey said after the game. "He knows what it takes to win big games and to close games out down the stretch. It really helps to have a leader like Sean on the team."
Though Terrell Stoglin led the team in scoring with 28 points against the Hokies, Mosley was undoubtedly the team's most important player. The Baltimore native filled the stat sheet with 15 points to go along with three steals, an assist and one game-changing block.
As the Hokies continued to cut into the Maryland lead late in the second half, Mosley made the hustle play that may have changed the path for the Maryland 2011-2012 season. A sloppy Maryland pass led to a breakaway opportunity for Virginia Tech, only Mosley chased the play down from behind and made a leaping block on guard Dorenzo Hudson. Mosley's swat sent the Comcast crowd into a frenzy.
Asked about the block, Mosley let out a big smile. "For me I just never quit on a play. I always try to make a play for my team and do what's best. What's best for me is just playing hard," he said.
Mosley does not possess the scoring arsenal that Stoglin shows, nor he does not have the athleticism that baby-faced freshmen Nick Faust flashes. But Mosley brings a relentless work ethic to the defensive end of the floor, stopping opposing guards and forwards. Many nights, Mosley will be forced to guard bigger players near the rim and smaller, quicker players on the edges. He backs down from neither.
"Coach always harps on how great Sean is defensively. It will spread. It will help the whole team," Pankey said of Mosley. "He's very vocal, and he's good to help us out as young guys."
Mosley knows his status as the only senior on the team with NCAA Tournament experience gives him an important role.
"I just try to lead these guys in the right direction each game and even in practice" Mosley said. "It's fun when things are put in your hands to lead the team in the right way."
With just four home games remaining, Mosley will soon play his last game in College Park. Thanks to his hustle and leadership, a Maryland team many pundits expected little from finds itself tied for fourth in the ACC with a 13-7 record, 3-3 in the conference.
The remaining schedule for the Terrapins lacks kindness, with six road games, including visits to Chapel Hill, Charlottesville and a small gym called Cameron. Turgeon strongly pointed out that this Maryland team continues to improve, and the opportunity will be there for the Terps to prove their coach right.
If Maryland can knock off one the conference's ranked teams and maintain a .500 ACC record, a postseason berth could be in sight. Without Mosley, it's hard to imagine anything similar.