CHESTNUT HILL, Mass., Feb. 6 2008 — A few weeks before reaching the latest milestone of his career, Maryland Coach Gary Williams said that career victory No. 600 would be somewhat difficult to appreciate mostly because there was more pressing business. And true to his word, shortly after the Terrapins beat Boston College, 70-65, on Wednesday, Williams played down his personal achievement and focused instead on what his team had accomplished.
Indeed, by holding off a late flurry by the Eagles, Maryland moved into sole possession of third place in the ACC, a half-game ahead of Clemson. And with the victory, the Terrapins won their third straight game and their ninth in the last 11.
Terrapins point guard Greivis Vasquez scored a game-high 25 points — motivated partly by the first meeting between the teams on Dec. 9, when he earned a technical foul with more than 10 minutes to play in what ended up his team’s first ACC loss. But this time, Vasquez was the catalyst, recording eight assists with just three turnovers while pulling down six rebounds.
“I’m sure he came out here wanting to show what would have happened if he would have been playing in that game,” said guard Eric Hayes, who hit a critical three-pointer off a Vasquez pass with 1 minute 9 seconds left to help seal the victory. “He did a great job scoring, passing, rebounding. He did everything tonight for us.”
Boston College’s John Oates finished with a career-high 21 points on 8-of-8 shooting but it wasn’t enough to overcome a 23-point outburst by Terrapins forward James Gist and a strong night by a driven Vasquez, who helped the Terrapins close out the Eagles in the second half.
“It was really good to see because we talked a lot about that,”Williams said. “We had to finish games and I thought we did a good job tonight against a guy who can really take over a game.”
Staying true to recent form, the Terrapins enjoyed a stellar first half, shooting 44.8 percent from the field while hitting six of their first seven three-point attempts. Both Vasquez and Gist were already in double-figure scoring by the break and — almost as an added bonus — the Terrapins were uncharacteristically clean with the basketball, committing just three turnovers.
On a typical night, those numbers would have been good enough to stake the Terrapins to a comfortable advantage. Instead, Oates stepped to the forefront. The 6-foot-10 forward-center entered the game hitting 46.2 percent of three-point attempts, a number inflated a bit by his limited shots from outside [12 of 26]. But against the Terrapins, Oates could not miss.
He hit all five of his three-point attempts in the first half. After knocking down his fourth three-point shot, he jogged backward while holding his arms outstretched, as if to ask the same question most of the 6,489 at Conte Forum pondered at that moment.
Oates’s statistical anomaly was his team’s gain — the Eagles never let the Terrapins get the lead to more than seven points and Maryland led only by two points at halftime. But as the tempo of the game slowed, a function of a stronger defensive effort by Maryland, the Terrapins were able to reclaim the lead and eventually push it to double digits for the first time all evening.
After Oates’s dunk with 13 minutes 47 seconds left in the second half, Boston College endured a stretch of more than eight minutes without a field goal. At one point in that span, Maryland embarked on a 10-0 scoring run capped by a Vasquez three-pointer.
It eventually led to a postgame celebration in which players presented Williams with the game ball. Even the location of his historic moment seemed to carry more meaning. Williams coached at Boston College from 1982 to ‘86. A banner still hangs commemorating the two BC teams that Williams led to the NCAA tournament.
Employees of the school walked up to Williams to shake his hand after the game, following him through the arena to offer kind words. And for a few moments, Williams allowed himself to soak in the moment, recalling epic battles experienced here.
“Without that, I don’t think I’d get to 600 as a head coach,” Williamssaid. “Every one of those experiences was different.”