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After a banner bearing his name was lifted to the rafters among the all-time greats ever to don a Terrapins jersey, Greivis Vasquez offered a piece of advice for the current team – just focus and play the game of basketball.
Fittingly, as the symbol for one era of Maryland basketball came to a romantic ending, the cornerstones of the future showed a glimpse of what could be next.
In his return to the starting lineup, freshman guard Terrell Stoglin scored 10 of the team's final 20 points en route to a 87-80 victory. Stoglin matched his career-high with 25 points, an accolade he set just five days earlier against Virginia Tech. His 25-6 effort paved the way for head coach Gary Williams to start Stoglin alongside fellow frosh Pe'Shon Howard.
"I'm just turning into a point guard like coach wants me to be. I feel like I'm just learning how to be more of a point guard and I'm fitting in that role now," Stoglin said after the game.
The nine assists Stoglin registered was another career mark, better than the eight he had earlier this year against Villanova. Stoglin finished 8-14 from the field and 9-10 from the free throw line. As a team, Maryland (17-10, 6-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) missed just one free throw in the second half, finishing 23-25 overall.
Stoglin's propensity to push the ball down the court led the Terrapins to beat North Carolina State (14-12, 4-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) 14-4 in fastbreak points. And although Williams told his point guard to slow it down a couple of times, he did credit his quickness for his success of late.
"It's the great competitor that thinks he can score consecutively."
But while Stoglin took over down the stretch offensively, it was the Maryland defense that secured the win. After Tracy Smith made a field goal at the 6:29 mark, the Wolfpack were held without a point for nearly 4.5 minutes. In that time the Terps capitalized with an 8-0 run to create enough separation to snap their two-game losing streak.
A 16-2 Wolfpack run late in the waning minutes of the first half handed the team a two-point edge heading into intermission. Sparked by five straight Terrapin turnovers, and the sharp-shooting forward Scott Wood, who finished 5-7 from beyond the arc, Williams suggested defense would be the difference in deciding winners and losers in this contest.
"I felt that in that second half, whoever could stop the other team, because both teams were scoring, was going to win that game," Williams told his team at the half.
Wood's 3-point shooting led Williams to lose his confidence pressuring N.C. State. In the second half, he implemented a more aggressive full-court press in order to intensity their drop-back defense. N.C. State made just two of their final six 3-point attempts.
N.C. State missed six shots and turned the ball over twice during that crucial 4.5-minute span without a bucket. Most remarkable was the absence of C.J. Leslie and Tracy Smith down the stretch, due largely to the strong interior defense by Dino Gregory.
[Leslie and Smith] are legitimate high level college players," Williams said of Gregory's defensive effort. "Making your shots is one thing, but the defense, the rebounding and all that."
In 36 minutes, Williams also praised Gregory for his intensity on the offensive end as well. "Still making shots because you're a little tired out there," crediting his work ethic for his endurance.
In his fourth consecutive game in double-figure scoring, Gregory sealed his third career double-double with a game-high 10 boards; and a new career-best with 18, leading the senior forward to boast, "At one point I felt like I couldn't miss a shot. The goal looked really big to me and my teammates kept finding me and I kept making shots."
Maryland's big three on the night – Stoglin, Gregory and Jordan Williams – combined for 69 of the team's 87 points, including 26 of their 32 field goals. Williams, who divided his scoring quite evenly between halves, began the game a perfect 8-for-8.
In addition to his game-high 26 points, most of which came off one the more talented centers in the A.C.C. in Smith, the Terps big man also grabbed eight rebounds.
Williams was a large part of the Terrapins' 40 points in the paint. The success feeding the ball into Gregory and Williams drew attention from the lack of long-range shooting. Maryland took just one three-point field goal attempt and fell short.
A cause for concern – possibly? It is the second time this season the team went a full game without a bucket from beyond the three-point line, both however resulted in wins. N.C. State sports the second-best 3-point FG defense in the league though, leading Williams to suggest that sometimes it just is not necessary.
"We were able to get to the basket today and as long as you can do that we were fine. We would have shot if we would have had them," Williams said. N.C. State limits their opponents to just 31 percent of made-threes. "Whatever it takes to win," added Williams.
Exemplifying that notion was Sean Mosley, who was moved to the sixth man role as Stogln and Cliff Tucker drew the starting nods. The junior guard responded with 10 points and six rebounds in what his head coach described as the best he has seen him play in a while.
Mosley had started all but one game this season – the exception being the match-up with Clemson. Last year he started in all 32 of 33 contests, only missing one game due to injury. But given the nature of this year's team, the starting five can change game to game.
"In this year's team it what you can contribute each game. It's what we can get from each other," Williams said, adding that he told his players that it is even interesting for him – a challenge as well.
Their next challenge comes Wednesday night when they host Florida State at 9 p.m. The Seminoles will head to College Park without the guidance of their best player, Chris Singleton. It will be Maryland's last home game before the team travels to North Carolina and Miami, then round out their regular season with a home game against Virginia.