By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 22, 2008
As the rest of his teammates trotted into the locker room 45 minutes before tip-off, junior guard Greivis Vasquez lingered on the far end of the court. He fired a three-point shot from the corner and missed. He called for the ball twice more, but missed those shots, too. After his fourth misfire, he turned away and grimaced. It was time to go.
Less than three hours later, Vasquez tossed up a fall-away three-point attempt from the corner with 6.4 seconds remaining in regulation against visiting Vermont. As the shot fell through the net to tie the game, Vasquez snarled before rising off the floor.
"You know what, I said they're either going to love me, or they're going to hate me," Vasquez said afterward with a shrug of his shoulders. "Who cares? I don't care."
With momentum in its favor, Maryland owned the overtime period and pulled away for an 89-74 victory. The win gave Coach Gary Williams his 400th victory in charge of the Terrapins, but reminiscing on milestones, Williams has said, can wait until his career is done. Last night, he was more proud of the steps Maryland (3-0) took toward becoming the team he envisions it can be.
"I think in any good season, there is a win like that somewhere along the line," Williams said. "You know, when it seems like there's no chance to win and then you win, it's a good feeling because it kind of cements the idea that if you work hard enough, good things happen."
Bereft of the shot-making mastery it displayed throughout regulation, Vermont repeatedly threw away scoring opportunities in the overtime period. The Catamounts scored just two points on 12.5 percent shooting in extra time after making 51.9 percent of their shots from the field in the second half.
Vasquez, who finished the night with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists, was the player Maryland called upon to run the offense as the lead ebbed and flowed after halftime.
Part of Vasquez's maturation, players and coaches have said, is his willingness and ability to play off the ball. On the final play of regulation, he did just that. Williams said there were three possible options to take the last shot: Vasquez, junior Eric Hayes and freshman Jin Soo Kim. Vasquez, however, said he knew Vermont's defender would overplay Hayes and demanded sophomore Adrian Bowie pass the ball to him.
"He fed me, and it went in," Vasquez said. "It just went perfect."
But Vasquez was not alone in his heroics. Senior forward Dave Neal hit two key three-point shots late in the second half, including one to draw the game even with just less than five minutes to go. Bowie added 17 points and pulled down six rebounds. The 6-foot-2 guard may even have earned himself time at a new position.
"For all of you that were wondering who we were going to play at" center, Williams said, "we've found our guy -- Adrian Bowie."
For the first time this season, Maryland matched its defensive intensity with offensive efficiency from the opening tip. But Vermont -- coached by Mike Lonergan, a former Terrapins assistant -- countered with an equally effective 2-3 zone defense. Vermont turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, while Maryland allowed 10 of its own before the break.
No lead was safe in the second half, as the score favored the Terrapins one moment and the Catamounts the next. It was Vermont that held the lead in the final minute, but one Vasquez shot later, momentum shifted a final time. Maryland outscored Vermont 17-2 in overtime.
"You could feel it; it was kind of downhill in overtime," Lonergan said. "They had all the momentum and the crowd got behind them. Once they went up four or six, you could just see it."
When the horn sounded and the victory was sealed, Vasquez tossed the ball in the air and pounded his chest. He shook some hands, smiled and turned away once more. It was time to go.