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Vasquez gets the last laugh

Facial hair notwithstanding, Maryland senior Greivis Vasquez played an efficient game Wednesday against Duke and hit the biggest shot of the night, a tough runner that sealed the win for the Terrapins.
Facial hair notwithstanding, Maryland senior Greivis Vasquez played an efficient game Wednesday against Duke and hit the biggest shot of the night, a tough runner that sealed the win for the Terrapins.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — With less than a minute left and Maryland leading  No. 4 Duke 71-69 in a contest that will go a long way in deciding the regular season ACC championship, the Terrapins put the ball in the hands of their senior general, Greivis Vasquez. The guard took the ball at the top of the key and dribbled into the lane, throwing up an off-balance shot across his body with 37 seconds showing on the clock.

The shot dropped through the net, sending the Comcast Center into a frenzy. On the other end, Duke’s Jon Scheyer missed a tough one inside, and after several  free throws, No. 22 Maryland (22-7, 12-3 in the ACC) secured a 79-72 win over the Blue Devils (25-5, 12-3), prompting a swarm of students wearing “Gold Rush” shirts to storm the court and nearby Baltimore Avenue, sparking a riot that featured helicopters, a SWAT team and riot police.

“It was a heck of game. I thought both teams played their hearts out,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They are to be congratulated—they are playing lights-out basketball, but I thought both teams played really hard. I don’t think one team played better than the other. It was a one-possession game and they won.”

While the game featured an exciting end to a back-and-forth second half, in the early stages of the game, it looked like Duke was going to get run out of the gym.

The Terrapins opened the game on a 7-0 run, with Vasquez accounting for five of those points. After a Brian Zoubek tip-in, Maryland continued to roll offensively, as Landon Milbourne drilled a 3-pointer. Moments later, forward Jordan Williams—who ended up having a huge impact on the contest with 15 points and 11 rebounds—took an assist from Vasquez and absolutely posterized Scheyer with a thunderous dunk, raising the already high decibel level inside the Comcast Center.

The lead ballooned into a 33-19 advantage for the Terrapins before Duke started to fight back behind the stellar play of Nolan Smith. The guard began to slash into the paint and get to the foul line, and he hit a 3-pointer with 1:16 left until intermission that cut Maryland’s lead to five. On the ensuing possession, Scheyer drilled a triple of his own, capping a 9-0 Blue Devil spurt to end the half and giving the Terrapins only a two-point advantage.

“No one scores a lot of points against Duke, but what we did early, we were really hot and made some great plays,” Maryland head coach Gary Williams said. “They’re going to find ways to shut you down, and they did.”

The second half was a different story, with each team throwing punches and counterpunches anytime the game threatened to get out of hand. Smith, who was lustily booed when introduced as being from Upper Marlboro, Md., went on a 7-0 run by himself in the second half to turn a 54-49 deficit into a two-point Blue Devil advantage with 8:03 left. The junior threw in a runner, converted some free throws, then hit a jumper that momentarily silenced the deafening crowd and prompted Williams to call a timeout. It was temporary vindication for Smith, who was knocked out of last year’s road contest in Maryland after a nasty screen set by Terrapin forward David Neal.

But in the end, Vasquez, who has been at the center of plenty of controversial remarks over the years, came through in the clutch. After Scheyer hit a tough 3-pointer with 5:37 to go in the contest, Vasquez answered with a triple of his own. Later, the guard broke a 65-65 tie with another basket in the lane. Both plays set the stage for Vasquez’s final heroics, which put the nail in Duke’s coffin.

“It came down to a possession or two at the end,” Scheyer said.  “They made their shots. We missed some layups [and] we missed some shots.”

One factor that ended up ultimately costing the Blue Devils was rebounding. In the two teams’ earlier meeting in Durham, Duke dominated Maryland on the glass, with Zoubek posting 17 rebounds by himself. In this game, however, the Terrapins ended up with the advantage on the boards, 36-35. A lot of that had to do with Jordan Williams, who asserted himself from the tip-off and was lauded by his coach for showing vast improvement from earlier in the season.

Unlike the Blue Devils’ loss to Georgetown in Washington, D.C. in January, when the team looked lifeless throughout the game Duke showed character and clawed back to make the contest interesting against Maryland. In the end, though, Duke’s leaders simply could not match the Terrapins’ when it most mattered.

“I’m proud of my guys. I thought we played winning basketball,” Krzyzewski said. “I tell them all the time, if we miss shots, you take your swings and they’re good swings, and you lose, you lose. We just came up short.”

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