Hayes/Milbourne Crucial Down Stretch

Maryland's starting five consists of two distinct groups: those that make no effort to hide their emotions and, it seems, go out of their way to egg on the crowd or pose for the cameras after a thunderous dunk; and those that, well, make one wonder if they have any emotions at all.

It's not difficult to break up the two groups. The Boisterous: Greivis Vasquez, James Gist and Bambale Osby. The Quiet: Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne.

How well The Quiet plays down the stretch might decide just how deep Maryland can go in March. The Boisterous, for the most part, consists of proven commodities: The production of the three doesn't waver much from game-to-game. But the play of Hayes and Milbourne varies, and since Maryland relies so heavily on its starters, it's of great importance that they contribute consistently.

"Landon is one of the nice people. He's just a nice guy, great guy to have around," coach Gary Williams said. "But I want as aggressive as possible on the floor. I think he can be one way off the court, another way on the court. When Landon is like that, he's really a good basketball player."

Said Vasquez on Hayes, "What I tell Eric is, ‘Man, keep shooting. Just let the game come to you. And just be aggressive.' We all know he's not going to make every shot, but we all know he could make every shot."

Hayes, who Vasquez said is still feeling the effects of an ankle injury, has struggled in the last two games, hitting just 3-of-16 shots. In the four games before that, though, he averaged 12 points per game and Maryland went 4-0. It's a matter of building confidence from game-to-game and continuing to shake his point-guard mentality.

"It's something that I have to do myself," said Hayes, whose 2.26 assist-to-turnover ratio leads the ACC. "I just have to have to confidence in myself that I can make the shots. I know I can, it just hasn't been falling for me the last couple of games."

For Vasquez, confidence isn't an issue—and not just in himself. "I got confidence in [Eric]," Vasquez said. "I got all my money on him."

Milbourne, meanwhile, scored a career-high 18 points against Florida State and leads the team at 42.5 percent from 3-point range. But he also has been streaky; he scored four points against Duke, 11 against N.C. State, and then just three at Boston College.

Williams said it's also a confidence issue with Milbourne, but he has the added challenge of learning the ‘3' position after playing the post in high school. He's starting for the first time since his junior year in high school as well, and considering he played sparingly last year, this season almost has a freshman feel to it.

"He's a great guy for us but he's got to get that confidence," Vasquez said. "He got to be consistent for us because we need him to score, we need him to play defense, we need him to rebound. He's got to be that player. He's at Maryland, a lot of people are expecting a lot from him."

Said Gist, "I always tell Landon, ‘Man, you got a 38-inch vertical. There's no reason you shouldn't be taking off and dunking the ball every time if you can, whenever you get to the rim.' Landon just starts listening to that and now he's just starting to do it a little bit more."

Williams is quick to point out that they're both still sophomores, and just like Vasquez, they're just learning.

"Eric and Landon, they both have very similar personalities," Williams said. "They're really quiet people. So they're not as demonstrative say as Greivis or Boom or somebody like that, but they really fit in well and do a great job for us."

Need for Noise

In Maryland's 67-66 loss at Virginia Tech's Cassell Coliseum on Jan. 12, Vasquez said the crowd played a major factor in Virginia Tech's comeback. He's urging the Maryland crowd to bring the same intensity tomorrow.

"Hopefully the crowd is going to be involved. We need the crowd to be involved because I'm going to tell you what, they won that game because the crowd was big time on us," Vasquez said. "They did a great job and you got to give their crowd credit because they were loud, you couldn't hear what coach was saying that day during the game. Hopefully our crowd is going to get nasty like they did cause we need them to be like that. They won the game by one and the X-factor was the crowd."

Tucker's return

Cliff Tucker, who has been sidelined since last week with the flu, was expected to return to practice today, Williams said.

"The last I heard he will practice today and we can go in with our full squad against Virginia Tech," Williams said.

Against Virginia Tech on Jan. 12, Maryland was without Hayes, who was recovering from an ankle injury.

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