3 graduating Terps put hoops career in perspective

Final play of final game was unforgettable for Terps' Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes, Landon Milbourne

May 19, 2010|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — In their minds, it's still unfolding. Korie Lucious is making his 3-pointer and slowly turning to run down court, his mouth guard dangling from his lips, as green-clad Michigan State teammates rush from the bench to greet him.

For Maryland's three starting seniors, the last moments of their 85-83 NCAA tournament loss are like a ringing in their ears that won't quite be silenced.

"I see it all the time," said forward Landon Milbourne, one of the three starting Terrapins for whom the Lucious shot on March 21 is the final memory of otherwise bright college careers. "He was right in front of me, and that's tough for me because every clip that I see, my hand is right there."

In the weeks leading up to Thursday's commencement ceremonies, the task for Milbourne and his fellow graduating teammates -- Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez and 3-point shooting specialist Eric Hayes -- has been to place the Michigan State game in proper perspective.

They don't want to allow all that came before it to be colored by a single shot.

Entering the second-round game, Vasquez, Milbourne and Hayes had accounted for more than half -- 43.2 out of 79.6 -- of Maryland's points per game last season. They combined for 55 points against the Spartans, a fitting performance for a trio that led the Terps to an 89-47 record and three NCAA tournaments in their careers.

In College Park, the players are likely to be remembered more for their earlier accomplishments than for the Michigan State game that ended with a stunned Vasquez -- who said he blames himself for the loss -- placing both hands on his head.

There was the 79-72 victory over soon-to-be national champion Duke on Senior Night at Comcast Center in March. The Terps beat another eventual champion, North Carolina, the previous season. Both games ended with Maryland fans rushing the court in celebration.

"It was a long four years, and the run that we had was pretty good. The way we lost was tough," said Milbourne, drenched in sweat after a recent pre-NBA draft workout for the Washington Wizards.

Vasquez and Hayes have also hired agents and are trying to make it to the NBA. Hayes -- who won a 3-point shooting college championship on April 1 -- is hoping to attract the attention of NBA teams and has already aroused "some interest in Europe," said Brad Ames, his agent.

Vasquez was expected to be in Chicago for the NBA combine and might miss Thursday's university-wide commencement but planned to attend smaller ceremonies Friday.

The Venezuela-raised player said graduation would be special. "I came to this culture without any knowledge of English, and now I'm getting a degree from a big-time school," he said.

After the Michigan State game, Vasquez quietly left Spokane (Wash.) Arena with his sneakers slung over his shoulder. He said it might take him as long as a year to get over the loss. The Terps were trying to advance to the Round of 16 for the first time in the seniors' careers.

"We had a chance to win the championship," Vasquez said this week. "Everything happened so quick at the end. It's hard to swallow. It was my last college game."

Said Hayes: "I think it's always going to be with you, given the fact that it was my last game and given the magnitude of it."

Vasquez, second behind Juan Dixon on the school's career scoring list, said he thought he would make a game-saving steal at the end.

Maryland had rallied from a 16-point deficit earlier in the game. Vasquez took Michigan State's Raymar Morgan to the basket and tossed in a one-hander to put the Terps up, 83-82, with 6.6 seconds left.

Draymond Green brought the ball up for the Spartans. After he crossed half court, Green appeared to look directly at Morgan. Vasquez was waiting for Green to pass the ball.

"I thought he was going to pass the ball to Morgan. I was going to get a steal, but [Green] made eye contact with me and then he kept dribbling," Vasquez said.

Green passed instead to Lucious, a sophomore. Michigan State's Delvon Roe had to duck to keep the pass from hitting his head.

Lucious took a dribble and shot. The closest Terp, Milbourne, extended his left arm as Lucious released the ball.

Earlier in the season, Milbourne had been charged with a costly foul late in regulation of an overtime loss at Wake Forest. Milbourne was wary of fouling Lucious with the Terps ahead by one point.

"I didn't want to foul him. I just wanted to try to contest the shot a little bit, as much as I could," Milbourne said. "Crazy basket and crazy way to go out. It's a tough transition but it has to happen, and you've got to get it over with."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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