Greivis Vasquez hit two free throws and was engulfed in a sea of Maryland fans Wednesday at Comcast Center. The free throws put the final 79-72 score on the board with one-tenth of a second left, and catapulted Maryland, amazingly and improbably, into a tie for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.
The Terrapins (22-7, 12-3) were picked fifth in the conference's preseason poll, and they've almost been apologizing for making the NCAA Tournament and winning a game there last year with an underdog bunch that mostly returned this season.
Now there's certainly not a team in the ACC, and maybe not in the country, playing much better than the Terrapins, who have won six in a row at one of the best times of the year to go on a winning streak.
The gritty Terps have won 12 of their last 14, including the last five games where they've trailed in the second half. The senior triumvirate of Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne have provided leadership and clutch play during the recent stretch, and don't look now but with those seniors, particularly a veteran backcourt, Maryland fits the profile of the kind of team that thrives come tournament time.
The Terrapins close out the regular season Saturday at Virginia, and their chances of finishing ahead of Duke in the tie-breakers are slim unless the Blue Devils falter at home against rival North Carolina Saturday. That didn't stop Maryland partisans from storming the floor after Wednesday's game, a perfect Senior Night finish for Vasquez & Co.
The Terrapins overcame Duke's huge size advantage inside, actually forging a 36-35 edge on the boards. Freshman center Jordan Williams continues to improve, registering 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Maryland's stingy defense held Duke to just 39.4 percent shooting (26- of-66), but that shouldn't come as a surprise. Maryland has held 10 of its last 14 opponents under 40 percent shooting, and ranks 11th in the nation, yielding just 38 percent shooting on the year.
MARYLAND 79, DUKE 72: Greivis Vasquez scored 20 points in his final game in Comcast Center, leading 22nd-ranked Maryland over 4th-rated Duke. The victory pushed the Terrapins into a tie for the ACC lead with one game remaining. The Terps got off to a fast 15-5 start but trailed late in the game before Jordan Williams got a stickback for a 71-69 edge at 1:38. Vasquez hit a tough bank shot on the next possession to give Maryland a two possession lead they wouldn't lose.
Williams had 15 points and 11 rebounds, playing much better than he did in the first meeting of the two teams, a 77-56 Duke win in Durham.
--Greivis Vasquez has scored in double figures in 25 straight games, and has three games with at least 30 points. He has been over 20 points, 14 times.
--Adrian Bowie came up big off the bench against Duke, coming in to hit all four of his shots, grab four rebounds, score nine points and register two assists in 14 minutes. It was his top scoring effort in 11 games.
--Freshman center Jordan Williams posted his sixth double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds against Duke. He has registered three of those big efforts in the last six games.
--Maryland has hit at least one 3-pointer in 384 consecutive games.
ON THE SPOT: A key to Maryland's success this season has been improved offensive efficiency. The Terrapins are shooting .476 this year, compared to .424 last year. The advent of Jordan Williams in the low post as a consistent close-in threat has helped but having two point guards - Greivis Vasquez and Eric Hayes - in the starting lineup has made the Terps a pass-happy bunch that rarely squanders possessions and keeps the pressure on opponents by beating pressure or executing in the half court. Maryland's ability to play at various speeds has been a key in the recent run of comeback wins. That efficiency helps offset Maryland's lack of size, a problem in rebounding that has surfaced often this year.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Maryland has won its past five games since losing at Duke, including road wins at North Carolina State and Virginia Tech, to move to 11-3 in the ACC. The Terrapins are 21-7 overall and haven't lost consecutive games since losing to Cincinnati and Wisconsin in the last two games of the EA Sports Maui Invitational in November.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Landon Milbourne, F Jordan Williams, G Eric Hayes, G Sean Mosley, G Greivis Vasquez. Key Subs -- F Dino Gregory, F James Padgett, G/F Cliff Tucker, G Adrian Bowie.
Maryland 76, Georgia Tech 74
Maryland 88, Clemson 79
Maryland 104, Virginia Tech 100 (2OT)
Maryland 79, Duke 72
at Virginia, Saturday, March 6
vs. TBD, ACC Tournament, Greensboro, N.C., Thursday-Sunday, March 11-14
IN FOCUS: Maryland fell behind early against Duke in the first meeting, trailing by 16 at halftime, and couldn't make up the deficit despite a 10-0 run in the second half. The Terps lost 77-56, their worst defeat of the season.
--Sophomore G Sean Mosley has put together consecutive double-digit performances with 17 points at Virginia Tech and 20 against Clemson. He was 6 of 8 from the field in each of the two games.
--Senior G Eric Hayes has scored in double figures in three consecutive games after going scoreless against North Carolina State. He had 12 at Virginia Tech after getting 15 in each of the previous two games.
--Freshman F Jordan Williams missed a double-double for the second time in his last three games by coming up a point short against Virginia Tech. He had a season-high 15 rebounds against the Hokies but only nine points.