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Maryland Pulls Away From California for 84-71 Win in NCAA Men's Tournament

Univerity of Maryland Coach Gary Williams and some players talk about their 84-71 victory against the University of California on Thursday, advancing the team to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Video by Comcast SportsNet

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By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 20, 2009

KANSAS CITY, Mo., March 19 -- Out of the corner of his eye, Eric Hayes saw California swingman Theo Robertson tucked away in the corner, a weak spot in the zone scheme Maryland had turned to in the second half. With a teammate closing in on Robertson, Hayes inched backward and to his right -- and then he waited.

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When Robertson flung the ball across the arc a moment later, Hayes deflected the ball to Adrian Bowie, and the Terrapins set off on a three-man fast break that concluded with Hayes tallying a layup. With just more than six minutes remaining, Maryland's lead expanded to 11. The Terrapins were pulling away.

Subtle modifications played a crucial role in Maryland's 84-71 win over California on Thursday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. As they have often this season, the Terrapins adapted to the circumstances directly in front of them and produced a result few observers saw coming.

"I think once we started getting up 10, 12, you know, 15, I'm sure that was kind of a backbreaker for [California] when we got up as much as we did," said Hayes, who finished with 14 points. "It's tough to come back with four minutes left when you're down 15."

Near the end of the first half, California held the psychological advantage. California guard Jerome Randle dazzled the crowd and froze multiple Terrapins defenders on several drives to the basket. Commanding the ball like a yo-yo, Randle squirted through the lane and finished layups with a flick of his wrist. He shot 6 for 11 from the field and finished with 14 points.

Maryland held a tenuous lead throughout the first half despite holding California -- statistically, the top three-point shooting team in the country -- to 3 of 13 shooting from beyond the arc. The Terrapins led by three at the break.

"I thought they were hurting us by taking the ball to the basket," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "Basketball's a great game because a lot of times you have to make adjustments in the game. In other words, everybody saw [California's] three-point statistics. . . . We did a lot of work to take away the threes and all of the sudden, Randle and the other guys, they started driving pretty well and hurt us taking the ball to the basket."

So Williams elected to "gamble," switching Maryland's defensive look from man-to-man to a 3-2 zone. That decision, Williams said, paid dividends for the Terrapins in the second half on both ends of the court.

Their driving lanes diminished, the Golden Bears began settling for early shots and making poor passes. The resulting miscues allowed Maryland to ignite its transition offense, something Williams said gave his team confidence that was not necessarily present before the intermission.

"Coach figured it was a good time to switch to give them a different look," Hayes said. "It worked out really well for us. They missed some shots and we rebounded and got out in transition. When we get stops and we score, that's how we built that lead."

California's shooting percentage actually increased 20 percentage points in the second half, but Randle tallied just three points after the break.

Maryland's offensive efficiency climbed dramatically, as well. The Terrapins shot 61.3 percent from the field following intermission and were led by junior guard Greivis Vasquez, who finished with a game-high 27 points.

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