Three victories in four games had Maryland feeling better about things than it did during a stretch of four losses in five games, and Dez Wells wasn't going to let a 61-53 loss at No. 17 Virginia ruin it.
"We are getting better. We are," Wells said after the Terrapins made Virginia nervous in the closing minutes Monday night. "It just came down to two or three lapses on the defensive end. When we're playing a team like Virginia where they slow it up and want to play in the 50s or 60s, every possession matters."
Joe Harris scored 19 points and the Cavaliers stretched their winning streak to eight games, spoiling Maryland's last visit to John Paul Jones Arena as an ACC member. They head for the Big 10 next season.
Coach Mark Turgeon echoed Wells' thoughts.
"We've gotten so much better in the last month," he said. "We're figuring it out."
Seth Allen scored 15 points and Wells had 12 for Maryland (14-11, 6-6 Atlantic Coast Conference).
It was 52-41 with just under 5 minutes to play when the Terps staged a rally, getting seven points from Nick Faust and a basket from Wells in a 9-2 run that brought them within 54-50. But Harris hit a free throw with 1:03 to play, Maryland missed at the other end and Harris' two free throws sealed it.
"We did a lot of things well and just came up short," Turgeon said. "Give them credit. They were terrific in the second half."
The victory was Virginia's sixth straight in the series.
Malcolm Brogdon added 14 points and Akil Mitchell had 13 for the Cavaliers (20-5, 11-1), who continued their best start in conference play since the 1981-82 team opened 12-1.
The Terps and Cavaliers were tied at 35 when Harris scored on a drive.
After a block by Maryland, Justin Anderson soared at the other end to block a shot by Maryland's Roddy Peters near the rim and saved the ball. He started a fast break that moments later was capped by Harris' 3-pointer from the right corner, arousing a crowd that had grown quiet by the tight ballgame.
A dunk by Darion Atkins and Brogdon's 17-footer pushed the lead to 44-35.
As the clock wound down in the final minute, Cavaliers fans stood chanting "ACC! ACC!" to mock the Terrapins' move.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Harris gave Virginia a 33-29 lead in the opening minutes of the second half, but the Cavaliers then went nearly 4 minutes without a basket as the Terps pulled even at 35.
The Cavaliers trailed 17-13 before scoring eight straight points, the last four by Mitchell. Maryland promptly launched a 9-2 run, but Brogdon found Mitchell under the basket with an inbounds pass from halfcourt with 1.8 seconds to play in the half. Mitchell's dunk made it 26-25.
Follow Hank on twitter at: http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr