UM eyes good start to year's end

After dismal December 2007, Terps are looking to make this month 'one of the greatest,' beginning with a win over GW

December 07, 2008|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,bill.ordine@baltsun.com

A year ago, the holiday season brought little cheer for Maryland as the Terps were roughed up in December, losing four of six nonconference games, a dismal early-winter start that haunted them throughout the season.

That makes tonight's meeting with George Washington in the second game of the BB&T Classic doubleheader at Verizon Center more important than at first glance. A loss would reprise the way last December began, which was with a defeat to Virginia Commonwealth in this same local showcase. Meanwhile, a win would set the tone for six straight nonconference home games against mostly beatable opponents, including Bryant, Elon and Charlotte, before the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule starts Jan. 10.

"If we get this win, we can make this month one of the greatest months ever," junior guard and scoring leader Greivis Vasquez said yesterday. "Last December was horrible, so, hopefully, we can make it better."

Navy (7-1) plays Virginia Tech (4-3) at 5 p.m. in the BB&T Classic opener.

Maryland (5-2) is coming off a four-game stretch during which the Terps sandwiched wins against then-No. 5 Michigan State and Michigan around losses to two other nationally ranked teams, Gonzaga and Georgetown. The first three of those games were over Thanksgiving weekend in the Old Spice Classic at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

Although the Terps played poorly against the Hoyas in the final tournament game in Florida, they rebounded against the Wolverines on Wednesday at home, and the overall results proved that Maryland can win against top-tier teams, such as Michigan State, and has the grit to get off the canvas when it gets its nose bloodied.

"We're a tough team; we don't give up," said Vasquez, 6 feet 6, who had a career-high 12 rebounds against Michigan. "We don't lie down and cry because we lost."

Terps coach Gary Williams said he was encouraged by the bounce-back win.

"It was important for me to see if they would fight back from the Georgetown game," Williams said. "You look to see how tough your team is, and that was a pretty good display of toughness on our part because we were pretty tired playing three games in four days against the teams we did play."

The victory over Michigan was also a breakout game for 6-7 sophomore forward Dino Gregory, who played 26 minutes in the absence of center Braxton Dupree (Calvert Hall), out of the lineup after missing a class. Gregory (Mount St. Joseph) had seven rebounds and asserted himself on offense.

After viewing tape of George Washington (3-1), Williams described the Colonials as athletic and big.

"They go 6-7, 6-7, 6-8, 6-9 [with] four of their starters. They have a great shooter in [Noel] Wilmore," Williams said. Wilmore, a guard, is making 48.3 percent of his three-point attempts (14-for-29).

In its four games, GW has beaten Boston University, Binghamton and UMBC and lost to Auburn.

"They're playing with a lot of enthusiasm right now," Williams said. "They had a tough year last year [9-17], and they're going back to some things they're probably comfortable doing and playing hard."

Vasquez observed that defensively George Washington appeared to be "all over the place," perhaps making it vulnerable to Maryland's ability to move the ball crisply. But the lesson of last December remains etched on Vasquez's psyche.

"I know a couple of those guys [on George Washington], and they are going to come out and play hard," he said. "Plus, they're playing against Maryland. ... A lot of teams want to beat Maryland."

GEORGE WASHINGTON (3-1) VS. MARYLAND (5-2)

BB&T Classic, Washington

Tonight, 7:30

TV: MASN

Radio: 1300 AM, 1500 AM, 105.7 FM

Line: Maryland by 6 1/2

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