COLLEGE PARK — The collective emotions of Maryland fans were bottled up inside the walls of Looney’s Pub as the anticipation of where the Harrison twins would play -- UM or Kentucky -- reached its climax.
Wildcats 2, Terps 0.
As the word “Kentucky” spilled out of Aaron Harrison’s mouth during a live broadcast on ESPNU, the packed bar let out a shared groan. Some shouted expletives, some rushed out, others buried their faces into their hands. One girl took off her glasses to stop the tears from forming.
“They could have been part of something bigger,” said Josh Ilori, a sophomore anthropology major.
“We all really thought we had a shot at the Harrisons,” said junior Max Eichner, who came with a party of 20 to watch the announcement.
Already busy to begin with, a flood of students entered Looney’s at 5 p.m., joining in cheers as ESPNU showed a live shot of the gym at Travis High School in suburban Houston. From there, the anticipation built with every teaser of the upcoming decision and commercial break.
Before the announcement, sophomore journalism major Tyler North, who has blogged about the twins' recruitment since he was a senior in high school, was confident it would be the Terps. But North found a silver lining in the decision.
“Win or lose, Coach [Mark] Turgeon has done what he’s needed to do to bring this program back to an elite level,” said North, adding that this was the “biggest recruitment in Maryland history.”
When the time for the Harrisons' decision came, almost everyone at Looney's stood. Many nervously rubbed their hands together, clenched their jerseys or stood with their arms crossed.
But the magic that Looney’s provided with the commitment of Good Counsel five-star wide receiver Stefon Diggs wasn’t there. Moments after the decision, someone shouted “Don’t worry, we’ll get through this.”
The mood afterwards felt like a bad breakup, with a mixture of depression, anger and disappointment of what might have been for the Maryland program.
“They were the two missing pieces,” said sophomore Brad Halperin.
It might have been much easier to bear had the pair decided on Larry Brown and SMU, but it was the defending national-champion Wildcats that struck again.
“They are just going to be another number at Kentucky,” said sophomore James Weitzman.