Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez drives past Florida State's… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
COLLEGE PARK — After nine weeks of nonleague play, the Maryland Terrapins craved the higher stakes and fan excitement of the opening of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
As Maryland raced to a 16-point lead against No. 18 Florida State, it was as if the Terps saved two months of pent-up energy for Sunday night.
Led by senior guards Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes, the Terps (10-4, 1-0 ACC) played their most energized half of the season, then weathered a pair of comeback attempts by Florida State for a 77-68 victory.
"This is big, man," Vasquez said. "This is a huge win. I never thought we were going to lose."
Maryland won because it did not cede inside advantage to the taller Seminoles.
Rather, the Terps attacked the inside and sent 7-foot-1 center Solomon Alabi from the game early with two quick fouls. Alabi (17 points) was limited to five minutes of playing time during a first half in which the Terps built a lead they never relinquished.
"To have him in foul trouble early was big for us," said Hayes, who also had 17 points and was 5-for-6 on 3-pointers. "We were able to have a little more inside action."
It was Maryland's first win this season over a ranked team. It was important for the Terps to win at home because the team's next two league games are on the road: The Terps visit Wake Forest on Tuesday and Boston College on Saturday.
"It's a win we won't be able to enjoy because we have to be ready to go on Tuesday," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "This is one of 16 games. There's no champagne in the locker room."
Maryland's inside attack enabled it to get inside-outside balance. Hayes, Vasquez (22 points, including 17 in the second half) and Cliff Tucker (eight points) often hit the open shots that Maryland collected from Florida State's defense, which often packed into the lane.
It was the first loss for the Seminoles (13-3, 1-1 ACC) in more than a month. Florida State entered the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in field-goal percentage defense at 33.7 percent and surrendering just 56.9 points per game. Maryland's total matched the most the Seminoles had given up this season.
Maryland power forwards Jordan Williams and Dino Gregory chest-bumped as the Terps walked off the court at the end.
Maryland's energetic fans - the announced crowd of 17,295 was louder than at any other time this season - made the game feel significant. Among those in the crowd were former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell, former Terps star Juan Dixon and Darrius Heyward-Bey, the former Maryland football receiver now with the Oakland Raiders.
"After losing against William & Mary [in the last home game], I thought the crowd was a huge factor tonight," Vasquez said.
The Terps took their biggest lead at 41-25 on a put-back by Landon Milbourne in the final moments of the first half.
Florida State made several runs, pulling to within 48-45 and then to 72-66 on a three-pointer by Deividas Dulkys (15 points).
Then Vasquez made the biggest shot of the night. With the Terps needing a basket, the senior drilled a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 75-66 with 2:24 left.
He followed with a celebratory shimmy for the student section, and the Terps were not threatened after that.
Florida State's defense had been focusing on Vasquez in the first half. He got more looks once others - Hayes and Milbourne - began to command more attention.