Gary Williams guided the Terps to an 88-64 win over N.C. State… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
COLLEGE PARK — - All in all, it turned out to be a fine night for Gary Williams to coach his 1,000th game.
The Maryland coach had indicated the big, round number didn't mean much to him - "You never look back," he said - but he certainly would have preferred the game to be exemplary in some way. And, of course, he wanted to win.
Williams indeed got a win - 88-64 over North Carolina State in a game in which Maryland's energy and inside aggressiveness (36 points in the paint) made its coach proud. "I'm just really pleased with the way the team is competing," he said. "As long as we don't let anybody play harder than we do ... "
The milestone game in front of a Comcast Center capacity crowd kept the Terps on something of a roll - or at least what passes for a roll in the balanced Atlantic Coast Conference, in which winning streaks are precious commodities.
The Terps (13-5) pushed their conference record to 3-1, the only loss coming in overtime at Wake Forest. Maryland, which won for the fifth time in six games, is off to its best ACC start since 2002-03. The Terps are the only team besides Virginia - which lost, 69-57, at Wake Forest on Saturday - with just one conference defeat.
The Terps, who host Miami on Tuesday night, have now beaten N.C. State six straight times. Their 24-point victory margin was the largest in the ACC since they beat Clemson, 91-52, in 2003.
"We can't really get too happy, we can't really get too low, we've got to get to the middle," said senior leader Greivis Vasquez, who scored two points in the first half but finished with a team-leading 19 on 7-for-11 shooting.
Maryland won because it shot 53.7 percent and got to the foul line 33 times. Frequently getting to the free-throw line is practically a mandate of Williams, whose career record is now 638-362. "You have to be aggressive to get to the free-throw line," the coach said. "A lot of times if you can get a second shot, that's where you get fouled."
Sophomore guard Sean Mosley (St. Frances) got to the line more than anyone else (13 times) and converted eight free throws.
Said N.C. State guard Javier Gonzalez: "They just played harder than us."
The Terps kept N.C. State's shooting in check. The Wolfpack was coming off a memorable 88-74 home win over Duke in which N.C. State shot 58.2 percent and leading scorer Tracy Smith had 23 points.
Did N.C. State suffer a letdown after Wednesday's Duke game, in which Wolfpack fans stormed the court afterward? "I hope not, and I don't want to use that as an excuse," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said.
Smith scored 18 against the Terps, but only six in a first half in which Maryland built a lead it never relinquished. Maryland led by eight at the half but immediately pushed the lead to double digits and was never threatened in the second half.
Smith, frequently double-teamed by Maryland inside, didn't attempt his second shot of the game until 3:30 remained in the first half. The Terps, who occasionally sent Vasquez to help out on Smith, seemed determined not to let the 6-foot-8 forward beat them single-handedly.
Vasquez's 11 shots were his fewest in an ACC game this season. Only 6:37 remained in the first half before the guard, frequently guarded by speedy Wolfpack defender Farnold Degand, took his first shot - a jumper that missed. His first basket came with 4:09 left before halftime.
The guard's discretion won him praise from Williams, who said Vasquez allowed the game "to come to him" rather than forcing shots.
"It's important to know that if Greivis scores - and he's going to score - that he is a great player," the coach said. "If he doesn't, we can still play."
Maryland was also led by Landon Milbourne (18 points on 7-for-11 shooting) and Jordan Williams (nine rebounds, nine points).
Among those in attendance were Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and coach John Harbaugh, Washington Redskins running back Ladell Betts, Orioles outfielder Adam Jones and free-agent pitcher Eric Milton, who played for Maryland. When introduced to the crowd, Harbaugh pumped his fist, Gary Williams style.