By Mark Giannotto
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 21, 2011; 1:05 AM
If Virginia Tech senior Malcolm Delaney really believes Maryland has the worst fans, as he told reporters earlier this week, he sure didn't show it when he took the Comcast Center floor Thursday night for the Hokies' 74-57 victory over the Terrapins.
During pregame stretching, the Baltimore native made it a point to sit as close to the Terrapins' student section as possible. When a pocket of fans began taunting him, Delaney waved them on as if he wanted to hear more.
He heard deafening boos, along with teammate Jeff Allen and Coach Seth Greenberg, as the Hokies' starting lineup was introduced and every time he touched the ball early on. One fan had a sign with Delaney's complete quote - Maryland fans "say anything that comes to mind. They might be the worst fans ever" - written verbatim.
This, though, is exactly what Delaney hoped for. And he promptly swished a three-pointer that helped Virginia Tech (12-5, 3-2 ACC) jump out to an early 12-0 lead, making a bull's-eye gesture toward the crowd for emphasis.
The Hokies never did relinquish that advantage, and returned to Blacksburg with their first road win this season over a team ranked in the RPI top 100.
The fans "just made me play better. They don't realize that," said Delaney, after his 19-point, seven-assist performance. "They can talk as much as they want. I already expected it."
His teammates followed suit, never showing any sort of panic even as Maryland's Cliff Tucker tried his best to whittle away a 17-point Hokies lead by scoring all his team's points during an 11-4 run midway through the second half.
Sophomore Erick Green, in particular, played with the confidence of a wily veteran rather than someone making his second start in an ACC road game. Green (Paul VI Catholic High) finished with a career-high 24 points on 12-of-16 shooting in addition to four steals.
Unlike their loss to North Carolina last Thursday, in which the Hokies wasted a 16-point first-half lead, Virginia Tech kept its poise when Maryland (11-7, 1-3) cut its lead to single digits. And though it was Green who helped stave off Tucker's burst with consecutive layups - one of which came off a beautiful up-and-under move - he credited Delaney's bravado for inspiring the Hokies on this night.
The final score was the Terrapins' largest margin of defeat since Comcast Center opened in 2002.
"Malcolm was hyped," Green said. "This is his home town. This is where he came from. So we was hyped. We all rallied around him and he came to play."
During his postgame news conference, Greenberg played down the significance of Delaney's comments from earlier this week. But even he admitted, his team appeared more focused than usual before tip-off.
That attention to detail was most evident on defense, where the Hokies mixture of 2-3 zone and man-to-man defense limited Maryland star Jordan Williams to 11 points. He had just one field goal before halftime.
The Terrapins shot just 35.7 percent from the field, playing right into Virginia Tech's strategy by settling for 20 three-point attempts. The Hokies, meanwhile, shot 53.6 percent thanks in large part to Delaney.