Terrapins Halt Slide, Top the Cavaliers

Maryland's Greivis Vasquez avoids Virginia's Sylven Landesberg for two of his 16 points.
Maryland's Greivis Vasquez avoids Virginia's Sylven Landesberg for two of his 16 points. (By Joel Richardson For The Washington Post)
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By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A dunk, Maryland guard Adrian Bowie thought, would be the perfect way to end last night's game against Virginia. It could serve as a collective exhale for a team and a fan base still reeling from three losses in the Terrapins' previous four outings. It could prove a point that his coach, Gary Williams, had been trying to emphasize after returning from a deflating two-game road trip: that all was not lost in a season of low expectations.

Instead, Bowie demonstrated a poise neither he nor his team had shown in recent outings. When Virginia guard Calvin Baker missed a three-point attempt from the corner with 20 seconds remaining and the Terrapins up by six, teammate Mike Scott punched the loose ball down court.

Bowie gave chase, as did Virginia's Jamil Tucker, but Maryland's emerging offensive talent accelerated at a quicker pace. Rather than grab the ball and slam it through the net, Bowie cut off Tucker just before they reached the baseline, allowing the ball to bounce out of bounds. The Terrapins (13-5, 2-2 ACC) gained possession and, as a result, cemented an 84-78 win over the Cavaliers (7-8, 1-3).

"We keyed on the little things," Bowie said. "We just keyed on just trying to be aggressive at all times. That's what I do best: I just try to attack."

In the days following their return from Florida, Maryland's players were left to digest a reality that could have been drastically different. The Terrapins dropped two contests by a combined five points, and as a result were saddled with two conference losses rather than a perfect ACC record heading into last night's matchup.

The difference between 3-0 and 1-2, the Terrapins said, was three or four plays in each loss -- a two-point decision at Miami and a three-point overtime defeat at Florida State. Those few plays were the ones Maryland's players knew they needed to beat Virginia and resuscitate their season.

And so, on Virginia's first offensive possession of the night, the Terrapins set out to prove they were capable not of merely building momentum, but of maintaining it against a conference foe.

Cavaliers freshman guard Sylven Landesberg -- who has drawn acclaim early in his collegiate career for his ability to get to the free throw line -- drove to the basket and rose above junior guard Eric Hayes. The nearest official called a charge on Landesberg, and possession returned to Maryland.

Landesberg, Virginia's leading scorer, struggled against the Terrapins' man-to-man defense all night. He finished with seven points on 2-of-10 shooting.

In addition to limiting Landesberg's effectiveness in the lane -- and thus, at the free throw line -- Williams also wanted his players to find more ways to make it to the line themselves. After all, the Terrapins entered the night shooting 78.2 percent from the free throw line, best in the ACC.

"We're one of the best free throw shooting teams in the nation, so we got to get to the line," said junior guard Greivis Vasquez, whose team converted 21 of 24 free throw attempts last night. "We did, and we won the game. That was the difference between those other two games when we didn't go to the line enough times."

Midway through the first half, the Terrapins held a one-point lead as Bowie barreled over 7-foot Virginia center Assane Sene en route to the hoop. Bowie missed the shot, but was fouled and sank both free throws, thus satisfying at least one of Williams's directives.

Bowie has emerged as Maryland's most consistent scoring option, though in the previous two games his offensive effectiveness was tarnished by his propensity to foul. He fouled out of both games in Florida, despite scoring a combined 37 points.

However, Bowie was more disciplined on defense last night, which further strengthened his stat line. He finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting and had just three fouls.

Maryland led by 15 at halftime, though that provided the Terrapins little comfort. They held a 17-point lead well into the second half against Miami, yet watched it dissolve in a hurry. Senior forward Dave Neal said Monday the team's offensive execution became "sloppy" late in both of its most recent games.

With just less than five minutes remaining against Virginia, the Cavaliers had cut Maryland's lead to two when Neal caught the ball on the wing and made a three-pointer. The basket ignited a 9-2 Terrapins run.

"We held on, but we were due," Williams said. "We were due to get one of these and we did. We could very easily have won three in a row in the conference right now. It was tough to come back tonight. There's a lot of demons you have to get out of your head when you get a lead in this situation after what happened down at Miami. I'm really pleased with the team and what they did."

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