Strong Second Half Propels Terps over FSU

Nearly three days had passed from an exhausting effort at Duke, but the effects of Maryland's loss there still lingered early in today's game against Florida State. It was out of sync on both ends of the floor and allowed the Seminoles to build an eight-point lead at halftime.

Then, in an only recent development of Maryland's rapid progression this season, the Terps showed they can take their play to another level when they want, like flipping on a light switch. A nearly flawless second-half propelled Maryland to an 82-72 win over outmatched and undermanned Florida State, another convincing win that has the Terps in excellent position to make the NCAA tournament.

Leading the 50-point second-half outburst was Greivis Vasquez, who has taken over games recently when his teammates are slumping. He opened the half with three 3-pointers to pull Maryland (17-9, 7-4 ACC) even with Florida State (14-12, 3-8), and scored 15 of his team-high 20 points after halftime.

"He's one of the great players to have on your team when you're trailing," coach Gary Williams said. "He's one of the great competitors. He hates to lose. He just makes up his mind he's gonna change the way he played, and hopefully by doing that change the way the team played."

Facing a Florida State team without its third-leading scorer and starting point guard, Isaiah Swann (out for the season with an ACL injury), the Terps couldn't keep up early. Florida State shot 53.1 percent in the first half and forced 12 Maryland turnovers. Williams expressed concerns with the Seminoles' quick and strong backcourt Friday and whether his team would be able to contain it, even without Swann.

But as it turned out, that wasn't the whole problem.

"I just thought we were really beat up, mentally and physically" after Duke, Williams said. "We really tried to win that game down at Duke. I think there might have been a little carryover from that."

Said Bambale Osby, "I think we were flat. We were emotionally drained. It's more mental than it is physical. We weren't up the same way were up for the Duke game."

Earlier in the season, that malaise might have deterred Maryland. It was less confident then, and more importantly, its best players weren't playing well. Today, that wasn't a problem. James Gist had 17 points and Osby added 14, and the inside duo's shot-blocking prowess prevented Florida State from scoring easy baskets. The ‘Noles had just 12 points in the paint.

Maryland also got a career-high 18 points from Landon Milbourne, two of which came on a posterizing dunk over Uche Echefu. Milbourne's play down the stretch will help determine just how far Maryland can go in March.

"He's like our X-factor," Gist said.

"I know I was pretty hard on myself after the Duke game," Milbourne said. "I just went ahead and admitted I wasn't ready to play that game. Things like that happen sometimes and you know it's just a learning experience for me and now I just have to go out there and make sure it never happens again."

Milbourne and Maryland's other starters scored all but five of the Terps' points, carrying the overwhelming load of the scoring as they have in the last month. Cliff Tucker, who's averaged 16.3 minutes per game, was out with the flu, meaning the starters would have to play more minutes, too—Vasquez, Hayes and Osby played over 35 minutes each.

Maryland did get some unexpected bench contributions, though. Jason McAlpin, a walk-on who hasn't played since Jan. 15 against Wake Forest, saw seven minutes of action, while Shane Walker played eight minutes.

Florida State, which shoots an ACC-best 78.1 percent at the free-throw line, did not get to the line in the first half and made 10-of-10 in the second half. Maryland, meanwhile, made 24-of-29.

"Our inability not to get to the free-throw line is obviously something that concerns us," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We felt that we drove the ball to the basket and scored a lot of points in the paint, but we didn't seem to get to the line enough to balance out their free-throw shooting."

Williams said he was "very concerned" at halftime with the team's hangover from the Duke game.

"You get into mental situations where you can't change it," he said. "I forget sometimes, and I've been doing this for a while, you get guys 18 to 22 years old that really thought they could win that game, and when you don't you have this tremendous letdown for a little while and you try to get rid of that."

Suffice to say, the second half proved that this is a different team from that of just a couple months ago. To have the ability to turn its play up like it did will certainly bode well the rest of the season.

"We're trying to make it to the NCAA tournament, maybe to the Final Four," Vasquez said. "We don't need to think about, ‘Oh, we lost to Duke.' We never know, we'll probably play them again in the final of the ACC tournament, who knows, and we'll beat them. But we just worry about the next game, we don't worry about anything else."


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