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Friday, February 5, 2010
Vasquez keeps cool; Terps stay hot at FSU

By Mark Schlabach

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- In the past, Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez would have exploded.

And, more times than not, his teammates would have imploded.

But with the Terrapins about to blow an eight-point lead in the final six minutes at Florida State on Thursday night, Vasquez sank a jumper to put his team ahead 66-64 with 1:41 to play.

And after FSU freshman Michael Snaer's tying layup was waived off because of an offensive foul, Vasquez put the Terrapins ahead 68-64 on two foul shots with 14.5 seconds left. He added two more free throws at the end, giving Maryland a 71-67 victory that will keep it tied in the loss column with Duke and Virginia atop the ACC standings for at least another three days.

“I was proud of Greivis for keeping his composure,” Terrapins coach Gary Williams said. “I think sometimes he responds pretty well in places like this. I think he plays with a lot of emotion and some people don’t like it. I could hear about 10,000 people who didn’t like it tonight.”

Nearly every time Vasquez touched the basketball on Thursday, the sellout crowd of 9,228 fans at Donald L. Tucker Center booed him loudly.

The senior from Caracas, Venezuela responded by scoring 23 points with seven rebounds and seven assists.

“They hate me all over the ACC,” Vasquez said. “I don’t care about what anybody says about what I do on the court. I’m going to do everything I can to win the game.”

In his final season at Maryland, fans of other ACC schools have even more reason to despise him. He has led the Terrapins to a surprising 15-6 record, including a 5-2 start in ACC play.

In the past few seasons, Maryland struggled to beat teams like FSU on the road. The Terrapins hadn’t won at Florida State since a 74-72 victory on Feb. 12, 2003. After blowing a late lead like they did Thursday night -- Maryland took a 60-52 advantage on senior Eric Hayes' layup with 5:59 to go -- Vasquez would have lost his cool and his teammates would have followed his lead.

Beating a team like Florida State on the road is the type of victory Maryland lacked when it was left out of the NCAA tournament in three of the past five seasons.

“It’s not about me,” Vasquez said. “I was trying to win the game. I’ve become more mature. I’m not trying to draw as much attention to myself, and I’m just trying to win the game.”

The Terrapins have won five of their last six games, with the only setback coming in a 62-53 loss at Clemson Jan. 31. They swept games against the Seminoles and beat Boston College on the road. They lost at Wake Forest 85-83 in overtime on Jan. 12.

Maryland’s toughest stretch is still coming. After hosting reeling North Carolina on Sunday, the ACC schedule still includes two games against Duke, road trips to Virginia and Virginia Tech and home games against Georgia Tech and Clemson.

But as Maryland nears the midway point of the ACC schedule, Williams seems satisfied with how his team is playing.

“We’ve played seven [ACC games],” Williams said. “We’re not even at the halfway point. I couldn’t tell you who the best teams in the league are right now.”

Surprisingly, Maryland seems to be one of them. The Terrapins are led by three seasoned seniors -- Vasquez, Hayes and forward Landon Milbourne. And Maryland is starting to get quality minutes from freshman Jordan Williams, a 6-foot-10 forward from Torrington, Conn. He had 14 points and six rebounds against FSU.

“Our seniors are the key to our team this year,” Williams said.

And none is as important as Vasquez.

“We’re a good team,” Vasquez said. “We started out slow because I went through a long slump. But it’s not about how you start; it’s about how you finish.”