"You can love him. You can hate him," coach Sidney Lowe said. "But he's cocky. And I like players like that."
Lowe said Gonzalez did the best job on Vasquez, but nothing State tried was enough to stop the 'savvy player' from reading attacking State's defense.
"For some reason we kept backing off," Lowe said. "Vasquez did it again. He just scored. He won the match-up. Javi did a great job trying to deny him, but we didn't do enough, so he scored. We didn't guard him at all."
Maryland led 34-33 at the half, though the Terps led by as much as nine in the first period due to its 6-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc. I seemed Tracy Smith always had an answer for Vasquez, scoring 12 points of his own in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting and converting mostly on dunks. Smith led NC State with 19 points and nine rebounds in the game, though a Maryland zone limited his production in the second half. Ultimately, the Pack could not capitalize on its size advantage in the second half as it did in the first.
"We didn't make the pass inside," Lowe said. "We were too tentative for some reason. We broke down."
State committed 16 turnovers in the game, as Maryland applied full court pressure for much of the game. Still, many of State's turnovers were unforced, according to Smith.
"Maryland pretty good defense and did a good job getting deflections. But for the most part, we were careless with the ball," he said.
The loss puts N.C. State needing to put together a run to close the season to be considered for post-season play. The loss also left coach Lowe searching for answers.
"I haven't felt this way about a game in a while because we've been playing good basketball. I'm disappointed," he said.
Seniors Ben McCauley and Fells added 10 points each in the contest. Junior Brandon Costner scored only six points, as Lowe said he may be psychologically affected by the recent death of his grandfather. McCauley refuses to give up on the season or his teammates as his career nears an end.
"I'm going to do my best to rally the guys. These are the last two regular season games of the year. I'm not going down without a fight. And I'm going to make sure all my teammates know that," McCauley said.
"If we can get back to playing on the same page…we can definitely win three, four, maybe five more games here."