William & Mary knocks off Maryland at Comcast Center, 83-77

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jubilation bled through the concrete walls of the visiting locker room at Comcast Center on Wednesday night. Moments earlier, Maryland Coach Gary Williams had assessed in a radio interview at midcourt that William & Mary had played with "more enthusiasm" than had his Terrapins, and the Tribe's emotion had not simmered one bit in the aftermath of its second considerable upset of the season.

Maryland players had spoken a day earlier of not taking William & Mary lightly, and indeed, the Terrapins refrained from displaying the arrogance of a more renowned program. It was failure in execution, rather, that doomed Maryland in its penultimate game before the start of Atlantic Coast Conference play. The Tribe surged to an early lead and held off the Terrapins for an 83-77 win.

"As far as our team, we didn't really have that much emotion going into the game, and that's something that you have to have," said senior forward Landon Milbourne, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. "I feel like this was a big game for us; everybody knew that. . . . We should have come out with a lot more energy than we did.

"In the second half we tried to pick it up a little bit and show some emotion, but we can't play from behind all the time. We should have come out with that type of energy, that type of attitude, and maybe it would have been a different game."

There were many factors that kept the contest from turning out differently, though there were none that caught Maryland (8-4) by surprise. William & Mary shot well from beyond the three-point arc during a first half in which the holes in the Terrapins' press defense were apparent. Defensively, the Tribe induced Maryland into taking a horde of three-point shots, even as the attempts continued to fall errant.

Most critically, William & Mary (9-2) did not fold under the comeback attempts Maryland embarked on in the second half. The Tribe already had defeated one ACC team this season, claiming a 10-point win at Wake Forest in late November.

"I'm sure nobody around the country is shocked with the way they played," senior guard Eric Hayes said. "It's definitely not a shock the way they played, because they've proven they can do that this year."

Maryland, which suffered its first home loss of the season, made one necessary adjustment after another out of the break, easing off its pressure defense and falling back into a 3-2 zone scheme in order to limit the open looks William & Mary had garnered from beyond the arc in the first half. The Tribe shot 6 for 13 (46.2 percent) from three-point range before the intermission. Many of their makes came from the corners, the spots left open while the Terrapins attempt to trap.

But the Tribe's long-range accuracy was only part of the reason why it led by nine at the break. William & Mary lined up in a 2-3 zone defense, a scheme designed to induce three-point attempts while enabling a contingent of bodies to remain near the post in anticipation of the rebounding opportunities sure to come.

Following their opponent's lead, Maryland took the open looks offered to it, the significant difference being that the Terrapins' shots did not fall with the same frequency. Maryland shot 4 for 25 (16.0 percent) from beyond the arc on the night.

"We came out tonight not wanting to get the ball inside," Williams said. "Their defense was good. They sagged and all that, but you can still get the ball inside. We didn't have the patience or the toughness to go inside with the basketball, so it turned into a shooting contest and they won."

Senior guard Greivis Vasquez tallied 26 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds Wednesday night, marking the fourth straight game -- and five of the last six -- in which he has scored at least 20 points.

And yet, the body language he and his teammates shared afterward -- arms folded, sullen voices, glassy stares -- was indicative of a team with many questions to solve as it moves forward, such as how to produce the necessary amount of emotion when needed.

"I don't have an answer for you," Milbourne said. "I don't know. Coach has been saying it all week. That's just something that we have to build within our team. We haven't done a good job of that so far. I think tonight it finally caught up with us."

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