Saturday, February 21, 2009

Terps Take Down the Heels!

Before tonight, the Maryland Terrapins basketball team looked like they were about finished. They were beginning a very tough ACC stretch, starting with a drubbing in Clemson. They were coming home to take on both of Tobacco Road's finest, both in the top-10. Gary Williams, though safe according to Deborah Yow, was under fire from the media and his own athletic department. Fans were depressed about the season. Maryland begun their game against #3 North Carolina, and despite playing good defense to start the game, they could not take full advantage of their opportunities. With the Tar Heels by 16 in the second half, and nine with 1:30 left to go in regulation, many were ready to pack it up and get ready for Duke on Wednesday.

But the men in gold weren't going anywhere. They upset #3 North Carolina 88-85 in overtime in one of the greatest comebacks in Maryland history.

With the home gold jerseys that had won them two straight, Maryland never gave up. Despite the foul outs in the front court, including Milbourne, Neal, and Gregory, Maryland did not quit. They came up with huge shots down the stretch to force overtime, eventually prevailing with solid defense and key shots. They played liked their jerseys, golden and representing Maryland like a true team.

Greivis Vasquez had Maryland's first triple double since 1987 with 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. He scored Maryland's first 16 points; at one point it was North Carolina 17, Greivis Vasquez 16. As always he was the emotional leader and was one incredible player tonight. He was constantly creating his own shot and running hard every single possession. For once, Vasquez had all Maryland fans in the Comcast Center on his side.

One of the best players for Maryland was Cliff Tucker, who has earned his time on the court. He shot eight for 12 with 22 points, including an unprecedented 5-7 from beyond the arc. To think just a few weeks ago, rumors were he was thinking about transferring. He stepped up in the absence of Dave Neal, Sean Mosley, Adrian Bowie, and Dino Gregory, who combined for six points. Also factor in Eric Hayes, who despite a very slow start ended with 17 points, including two key free throws in overtime.

It was all about those three. They combined for 26-46 from the field, 13-25 from the perimeter, 20 rebounds, and 74 of Maryland's 88 points. Some of the other players had notable moments, like Dino Gregory's block on Lawson's fast break that made Sportscenter's top-10, but Vasquez, Tucker, and Hayes played their minds out tonight. No one outside of Danny Green had their normal big days, not Hansbrough, not Ellington, not Lawson despite his return to his home state of Maryland.

This does not clear everything up for the NCAA Tournament. There is a lot of work still to do. Sitting at 17-9, 6-6 in the conference, Maryland still has Duke and Wake Forest on their schedule plus away contests against NC State and Virginia. But this win not only gives them a huge resume victory over a top-10 team to add with Michigan State, but this win plus Vasquez's triple double has given Maryland a lot of national attention. Congratulations to Gary Williams, Greivis Vasquez, and the Terps, you earned it tonight.

(Photo credits: AP (crowd, players), Maryland athletics (scoreboard))

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