After Gary Williams Asks for Two Wins at ACC Tournament, Maryland Is Halfway There
ATLANTA Four days ago, after a devastating loss to Virginia in the final game of the regular season, Maryland Coach Gary Williams made a decision: He decided it was time to stop being a coach.
Coaches always tell their players they have to go one game at a time. They can't look past an opponent. The next game is the most important game of the season.
Williams abandoned all that.
He walked into the locker room and told his team the goal now was simple: win two games.
"I told them I had never done this before in my coaching career, but we had to be mature about this," he said Thursday night after his team had won the first of its two-game mission, beating North Carolina State, 74-69, in the first round of the ACC tournament. "We knew after the Virginia game we were going to have to win two games down here to get to the NCAA tournament.
"I told the guys not to expect anyone to get too excited after the first win because that wasn't where we're trying to get." He smiled. "Still, it's tough to win two if you don't win the first one."
It wasn't easy to get the first one Thursday in a building that was often library-quiet even though there were all kinds of karma in Maryland's favor.
To begin with, the Terrapins were returning to the Georgia Dome, the scene of the greatest moment in the school's basketball history: the 2002 national championship. Throw in the fact that the ACC decided to show highlights of the 2004 ACC tournament -- a tournament won by Maryland -- on the building's video boards while the teams were warming up, and there was plenty of reason for optimism.
Of course this event has not been a very happy place for the Terrapins the past four years. They had won one tournament game -- over Georgia Tech in 2006 -- and had reached only one quarterfinal during that stretch.
In truth, though, the two factors that mattered most had nothing to do with omens. They had to do with who showed up.
Greivis Vazquez was a little bit late, needing 20 minutes to find his ACC tournament legs. Vazquez, with some help from back-court mate Eric Hayes, finally got the Terrapins to the finish line -- or, more appropriately, the halfway point.
Maryland trailed 59-58 with 4 minutes 50 seconds left when N.C. State Coach Sidney Lowe called a mystery timeout with his team playing as well as it had all night. Coincidence or not, the Terrapins promptly went on a 14-3 run, punching their ticket for a Friday night meeting with Wake Forest.