Weird win caps a wild ride for Terps

Double-OT triumph over Hokies caps a mercurial 5-win streak

March 01, 2010|By Don Markus | don.markus@baltsun.com

BLACKSBURG, Va. — - There are many ways to describe Maryland's 104-100 double-overtime win Saturday night here over Virginia Tech.

Start with strange. Three hours before what was supposed to be a 4 p.m. tipoff, Gary Williams and his players got off the bus in front of Cassell Coliseum and noticed the sidewalk was flooded. It came from a water main that had been ruptured when a van carrying beer to a pre-game party in an adjacent building backed into a hydrant, knocking it over.

"I knew something was up," the Maryland coach said more than six hours later.

How about exhausting? After the start of the game was delayed three hours when two other pipes burst as the water was being turned back on, after 24 lead changes, 15 ties and two overtimes, the Terps returned to College Park to get ready for Wednesday's first-place showdown with Duke (25-4, 12-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference).

"This is a chapter," Williams said late Saturday night.

How about historic? It certainly was for Maryland senior guard Greivis Vasquez. Making two of 10 shots in the first half and watching the Terps fall behind by as many as eight points early in the second half, Vasquez carried Maryland again, scoring a career-high 41. He became the Terps' first player to score 40 or more since Joe Smith did it against Duke in 1994-95 and moved into third place ahead of Albert King on the school's all-time scoring list, with 2,059 points.

"To me, this was one of the best wins ever," Vasquez said.

How about surprising? Let's not go there, since Maryland (21-7, 11-3 in the ACC) has been coming back from seemingly impossible deficits throughout what is now a five-game winning streak. The Terps were down 12 to North Carolina State in Raleigh on Feb. 17, down five during the closing minutes three days later at home to Georgia Tech before Cliff Tucker's game-winning 3-pointer and down 15 at home against Clemson last Wednesday.

Sophomore guard Sean Mosley (St. Frances), who hit four straight free throws among his six points in the second overtime to secure the win, said he thought Maryland was in "great position" when it fell behind 50-42 with a little over 16 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

"We just kept fighting and fighting; it just shows how mature we are as a team," said Mosley, who scored 17.

This might have been the best of the recent comebacks, coming in a place where Virginia Tech (21-7, 8-6) had not lost this season and a place where Maryland had not won since the Hokies joined the ACC, in 2005. The Terps lost here by one point in overtime in 2007, after blowing a late five-point lead, and in 2008, a game in which Vasquez missed an ill-advised 3-pointer in the waning seconds.

Vasquez took a few of those Saturday night - one after making a shot, stealing the inbounds pass and firing a deep corner three with only two Virginia Tech players standing near the basket - but he also made a few. He finished 13 of 33 from the field, but he had six assists and only two turnovers in 48 minutes. Vasquez dominated Virginia Tech star Malcolm Delaney (27 points) in a battle of candidates for ACC Player of the Year.

"Anytime you have a guy like Greivis, you are going to have some shots that you as a coach or as a fan will say, 'That is a bad shot,' " Williams said. "Maybe it is, but the reason he is good is because he is aggressive. You never want to take away someone's aggressiveness. That is true in any sport and it is especially true with Greivis, because he will make a big shot if you need a big shot. That's the sign of a great player."

Conversely, Delaney missed a couple of crucial shots, including a pair of free throws with 39.5 seconds left in the second overtime. The former Towson Catholic star was kept off the foul line for much of the first half, as Maryland rotated Eric Hayes, Tucker and Vasquez on him.

Delaney, however, found his rhythm during the second half and the first overtime period, when he made a layup to tie the game with less than a second remaining.

Asked whether he could appreciate a game like that, Delaney was typically blunt.

"We lost," he said. "I'm not going to appreciate anything if we lose."

Williams was appreciative. Even after a national title and 646 wins in a little more than 1,000 games as a head coach, the man who soon will turn 65 knows that his team's recent play is memorable.

"There have been a lot of highlights, a lot of things have been great," Williams said. "Sometimes people judge you at the end of the year instead of looking at these games and seeing how great they are. These are great college basketball games we've been involved in. We've been fortunate a couple of times, but we've played well enough to win, and that's a great thing to do during the regular season. How that works out at the end of the year, I don't know. I know this has been a great experience for all of us involved in the team."

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