Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez scored a career-high 41 points… (AP photo )
COLLEGE PARK — - Greivis Vasquez seemed to struggle with the question.
How, the animated guard was asked Tuesday, would he temper his emotions when he and fellow senior starters Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes play the final home game of their careers tonight against No. 4 Duke? With a win, the 22nd-ranked Terps (21-7, 11-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) would tie the Blue Devils atop the conference standings with one game to play.
"It's a hard question to answer," Vasquez replied. "It's our last game. And it's hard. Tough."
For four years, Vasquez has been all about emotions. At times they have been his undoing, as when he shouted expletives at the Maryland student section last season after hearing a smattering of boos. He later apologized.
But more often than not, Vasquez has managed - particularly later in his career - to draw energy from his emotions. Like former tennis champion John McEnroe, Vasquez feeds on chaotic environments. But he has sharpened his focus on the court this season, saving his outbursts - such as a celebratory shoulder shimmy in front of taunting Florida State fans last month - for calculated moments.
"He always had the goal to be the best player he can be," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who fought back his own emotions Tuesday when talking about Vasquez and the success of this season's senior-dominated team.
Williams said he knew Vasquez would be a unique personality when the player leaned into the coach's office on the first day of his freshman-season practice in 2006, saluted and said: "Reporting for duty, sir."
Vasquez enters the Duke game as an ACC Player of the Year candidate along with Duke's Jon Scheyer and Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney (Towson Catholic). Vasquez is third on Maryland's career scoring list behind Juan Dixon and Len Bias.
"Greivis is a sensational player," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He has talent and a great motor, and you have to love that about the kid."
There was a sense of passage as Vasquez, wearing a gray Maryland sweat shirt and black warm-up pants, sat in the Comcast Center media room Tuesday and reflected on his career.
"Playing four years and playing with my [Venezuelan] national team really got me more mature," he said. "Your decision-making is obviously way better. I feel more calm."
It wasn't always a smooth journey for Vasquez, Hayes and Milbourne - the three seniors who have compiled a record of 86-45 over four years. Last season, the team's recruiting and direction were questioned in the media when it appeared the Terps could miss the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years. But the Terps upset eventual national champion North Carolina, made the tournament and advanced to the second round.
This season's Terps are unbeaten in ACC games at Comcast Center - a streak that will be tested by the Blue Devils, who have won eight in a row and defeated Maryland, 77-56, last month in Durham, N.C.
"[This is] a special team. They are," Williams said. "You don't go into a year knowing exactly what you're going to be as a team."
Vasquez and Milbourne expressed satisfaction with how their careers have unfolded. They said they were precisely where they had hoped to be - playing a meaningful game on Senior Night. The three seniors are expected to be honored in a pre-game ceremony.
"I have no words to describe how happy I am to be here right now," Vasquez said. "I wish I could play two more years at least. But, unfortunately, it's only four years."
Senior Night could be even sweeter, Milbourne said, if the Terps beat Duke, which has won the past six meetings between the schools.
The Blue Devils and Terps lead the conference in scoring margin, 3-point shooting percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio.
"I saw the schedule in the beginning of the season and I saw that [Duke game] and I was like, 'Wow, this is going to be crazy,' " Milbourne said.