Vasquez leads Maryland over Eastern Kentucky

Senior guard comes off bench to score 20 points for Terps

December 13, 2009|By Don Markus | don.markus@baltsun.com

COLLEGE PARK — - After the big lead disappeared quickly, a familiar feeling of uneasiness filled Comcast Center on Saturday: memories of last season's loss to Morgan State, of home losses to American and Ohio the year before. And, of course, the granddaddy of Maryland's nonconference defeats - Coppin State at Cole Field House in Gary Williams' first season at his alma mater.

Eastern Kentucky would not add to the unwanted legacy of early-season misery for the Terps. Senior guard Greivis Vasquez would not allow it.

After being benched for coming late to a noon shootaround Saturday, after continuing to struggle with his outside shot, Vasquez made back-to-back 3-pointers to quash a comeback by the Colonels and allow Maryland to go into its 10-day exam break with a not-so-easy 83-72 victory.

Vasquez finished with 20 points, including 13 in the second half, to lead Maryland (6-3). He also contributed five assists and five rebounds and, after a slow start, began to resemble the player who was one of the most versatile - and volatile - in the country last season.

"This was a great game for me to sit on the bench and see everything from the outside in, and get back to what I am," Vasquez said. "I'm the crazy guy that plays at Maryland and makes plays that people sometimes don't believe. That's who I am. I'm going to be myself from now on."

Senior forward Landon Milbourne finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, while senior guard Eric Hayes added 16 points and five assists, and sophomore guard Sean Mosley (St. Frances) chipped in 13 points and six rebounds. Junior forward Dino Gregory (Mount St. Joseph), after sitting out the first eight games for violating an unspecified team rule, had eight points.

The 3s by Vasquez, coming after he had missed his first five 3-point tries Saturday and misfired on 28 of 37 for the season, sparked an 8-2 run after the score was tied at 60 with 8:23 remaining. Eastern Kentucky (7-3) never got closer than four points the rest of the way.

"I proved today when I attack and drive and get guys involved and not think too much about my shot, that's when I hit the big shot under pressure," said Vasquez, who finished 7-for-14 from the field. "It was all mental."

With Gregory making his first start as a Terp and Vasquez out of the starting lineup for the first time in 80 games dating to late in his freshman season, the Terps played flawlessly for the first nine minutes to build a 24-8 lead.

It didn't last. Eastern Kentucky went on a 24-9 run to cut its deficit to one, 33-32, with two minutes left in the first half. Vasquez, who came into the game after 5 1/2 minutes and didn't score until hitting a runner with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half, made a 3-point play and a behind-the-back drive in the final minute to give Maryland a 38-32 halftime lead.

The Terps scored the first five points of the second half to stretch their lead back to 13, but the Colonels wouldn't go quietly. Eastern Kentucky confused Maryland by switching among several variations of a zone defense, and knocked down 3s or made backdoor cuts for dunks and layups.

"It was like playing Navy in football," Maryland coach Gary Williams said on his radio show after the game.

Eventually, after Vasquez's 3s, the Terps were able to penetrate the zone and Eastern Kentucky started missing some shots. Maryland wouldn't be added to the list of early-season upset victims, or to its own history of falling to lesser-known nonconference opponents.

Williams acknowledged that getting his players to think as he does is difficult.

"Players are kids, 18 to 22 you might not respect a team as much as a coach does," Williams said. "I knew it was going to be tough, but getting that message across is tough sometimes. Eastern Kentucky doesn't sound the same as North Carolina. It can be a problem. Hopefully, you learn with a win. It's tough to learn these things from losses."

The difference, as it turned out, was Vasquez. The player who had struggled this season, especially in the team's three losses, gave Maryland some much-needed separation and much-overdue leadership Saturday. A day that began with a disciplinary benching ended with Vasquez scoring 20 points for only the second time this season.

"He played great. I thought that was his best game" this season, Williams said. "People are quick to criticize ... but you don't take away from a player what makes him good. I'd rather try to calm a guy down than pump him up. That's fine with me."

NOTES: With Gregory playing 33 minutes in his return, freshman forward James Padgett didn't play for the first time this season.

Maryland next plays Dec. 22 against Winston-Salem (N.C.) State.

EASTERN KENTUCKY-Taylor 4-9 0-1 12, Perrin 7-14 0-0 14, Oppong 6-12 2-2 15, D.Ellis 0-0 0-0 0, Stommes 5-10 2-3 16, Cruz 0-0 0-0 0, Mestdagh 0-1 0-0 0, Jones 3-5 3-3 11, Lewis 1-4 0-0 2, Daniel 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 27-58 7-9 72.MARYLAND-Milbourne 6-13 7-7 19, Gregory 2-5 4-4 8, Hayes 5-12 2-2 16, Mosley 6-11 0-3 13, Bowie 1-3 1-2 3, Choi 0-0 0-0 0, Williams 2-4 0-0 4, Vasquez 7-14 4-4 20, Tucker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-62 18-22 83.Half-Maryland 40-32. 3-point goals-E. Kentucky 11-23 (Taylor 4-6, Stommes 4-8, Jones 2-3, Oppong 1-5, Mestdagh 0-1), Maryland 7-17 (Hayes 4-8, Vasquez 2-7, Mosley 1-1, Bowie 0-1). Fouled out-Oppong. Rebounds-E. Kentucky 29 (Perrin, Stommes 7), Maryland 39 (Milbourne 9). Assists-E. Kentucky 18 (Perrin 6), Maryland 18 (Hayes, Vasquez 5). Total fouls-E. Kentucky 21, Maryland 15. A-16,183.

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