Maryland dictates pace to upend Florida State, 71-67

By Steve Yanda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 5, 2010

TALLAHASSEE -- That the Maryland men's basketball team felt comfortable declining to match Florida State's desire to push the tempo as the game clock wound down Thursday night signaled the Terrapins' confidence in the crispness of its half-court offense. The Seminoles elevated the pace because it could find no other way to score; Maryland slowed it down because that was the best route to survival.

Sped up, the Terrapins were unorganized, careless and inefficient. At a lower heart rate, Maryland put its thumb against the throat of its opponent and waited for the submission. Florida State had the ball down two with just less than 40 seconds remaining, but the Seminoles had to slow down and run their half-court offense. Dino Gregory took a charge from Michael Snaer in the lane, helping to cement a 71-67 Maryland win that kept the Terrapins (15-6, 5-2) near the top of the ACC standings.

"In the first half we really didn't run everything through," senior forward Landon Milbourne said. "We got kind of flustered and started going on our own. We got together as a team and decided we were going to calm down and run our stuff the way we needed to."

The Terrapins opened the second half on an 18-7 run in which their offensive execution finally returned to the level at which they had grown accustomed to operating during the opening weeks of conference play. Eric Hayes drained three-pointers. Milbourne and Jordan Williams finished shots in the paint. Greivis Vasquez darted and dashed (and occasionally shimmied) around the court, a Florida State defender chasing him all the while. He finished with a team-high 23 points.

The victories Maryland collected in the opening weeks of its ACC slate ¿ thrashings of Boston College, N.C. State and Miami ¿ were appreciated, no doubt, but they did not engender quite the satisfaction of claiming a closely contested win on the road against a physically imposing opponent.

Better yet, Thursday's win marked the second time this season the Terrapins have beaten Florida State, and it was the manner in which they did so that stood out most.

Maryland's offense ¿ at one time not too long ago considered one of the most potent in the ACC ¿ remained unhinged at the outset Thursday night. Four days after an off-kilter performance at Clemson in which the Terrapins shot 34.6 percent and recorded its lowest point total of the season, Maryland struggled once again offensively in the first half.

The fluidity, the precision, the production ¿ all of the elements that accurately characterized the Terrapins' half-court offense during the first five games of conference play had remained missing. The Terrapins tallied seven turnovers and missed all six of their three-point attempts before the break.

"We run a lot of timing plays that maybe a lot of teams don't do now," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "Maybe we have to work a little harder at running our offense and we were willing to do that in the second half. Hopefully that really helps us for the rest of the way, because if we get the win we can point to that, that we did pick it up in terms of our execution in the second half. We got the win out of it by doing it that way."

The Terrapins shot 46.7 percent and recorded just four turnovers after the intermission. Hayes tallied 10 of his 12 points and Milbourne registered 11 of his 18 points in the second half.

And those points came mostly out of Maryland's half-court offense. Gary Williams noted the Terrapins did not accumulate many fast-break opportunities in the second half. But unlike in past games, they didn't need them, either.

With just more than five minutes remaining, Florida State point guard Derwin Kitchen stole a pass from Milbourne and turned it into a three-point play the old-fashioned way. A minute later, Kitchen stole the ball from Vasquez and fed Florida State forward Chris Singleton for a transition dunk that brought the Seminoles (16-6, 4-4) to within a point of the lead.

This was how it went most of the night. Kitchen drove to the basket repeatedly, creating shot opportunities for himself and others; he finished with a career-high 29 points.

"He was great," Williams said of Kitchen. "We couldn't stop him. The clock just ran out, that's all. I don't think we ever stopped him."

But the Terrapins answered with a patience that has been slow to develop this season. They knew they could out-execute Florida State; they simply had to resist the Seminoles pleadings to join them in a track meet.

Instead, Maryland stood firm in what it did best, confident that was enough to produce a positive result. In the end, their persistence was rewarded. Snaer drives into the lane with a chance to tie the game; Gregory takes a charge. The Terrapins make their free throws.

"That's the reason we won the game," Vasquez said of the charge Gregory took in the final minute. "He played outstanding, great effort. It was a team win, man. We played great."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company