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In Wilbon's World

Terps excel on short rest

It might have been the most efficient half of basketball ever turned in by a Maryland basketball player, and it came against an ACC opponent, coming off a brutal loss in Durham, in the middle of a three-games-in-five-days NBA kind of stretch, caused by a snow postponement.

Greivis Vasquez not only hit 10 of 13 shots and scored 25 points, but he handed out five assists and didn't turn the ball over once. What Maryland needed was a no-stress night, a comfortable victory over Virginia. And that's what they got, 85-66 at Comcast Center. It wasn't that close. Vasquez rested much of the second half and wound up with 30 points and no turnovers. Landon Milbourne, relying on the kind of fundamentally sound post-up game you rarely see in college anymore, scored 14 points. And Maryland won its seventh ACC game to move into a tie for third place (with Virginia Tech), a half-game behind Wake Forest and only one game behind first-place Duke.

It wasn't a "must win" situation, not with six regular season games and the ACC Tournament remaining. But it was a nice win, an important win. One thing about Maryland: the Terrapins have been good at recovering. After losing to Wisconsin, Maryland won at Indiana. After losing at Wake Forest, the Terrapins won at Boston College. After losing at Clemson, they won at Florida State. After losing at Duke, they smoked Virginia. "We were about as low as we could be, walking off the floor at Duke," Gary Williams told me afterward. "We had to be tough."

A lot of Maryland supporters were on the verge of panic when Maryland was blown out by Duke Saturday and was facing two more games with less practice time than college teams are accustomed to having. The feeling here was it could all work in Maryland's favor. One, getting blown out by Duke was going to put the Terrapins on red-alert. And two, the players are young enough that playing every other day could work to their advantage, get the team into a rhythm, especially on offense.

When I asked Williams what's good about having less practice time he admitted, "There's no time to waste in practice. Sometimes when guys play twice in a week and have three or four days between games they'll have a bad practice and think, 'No big deal, we still have another one tomorrow.' I told them this is like the NBA. You walk through some stuff, you get on a plane and go play."

Against one of the ACC's better defensive teams Monday night Maryland shot 56 percent. The Terrapins scored 52 points in the first half. For the game they recorded 22 assists on 36 baskets. Eric Hayes had nine assists. Vasquez is starting to play like a pro, not because he scored 30, but because he did what was necessary for his team on this particular night and is making that diagnosis accurately on a nightly basis.

Maryland is on a flight Tuesday for Raleigh, N.C. to play the Wolfpack Wednesday. It's a winnable game. So are upcoming home games against Georgia Tech and Clemson, and yes, Duke the first Wednesday in March. Seventeen wins and seven in the ACC with six regular season games to play, a senior finding a nice groove and a coach who knows how to push buttons on a group happy to grind through the season isn't a bad place to be at all.


Michael Wilbon

 |  February 16, 2010; 11:00 AM ET  |  Category:  College Basketball , Maryland Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Great column. Well-written.

Posted by: vn11701 | February 17, 2010 1:37 PM
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@rational_man - not to nitpick too much, but I would say that that's how "three games in five days" works. It's not "three games ending five days later", it's "three games occurring in a span of five consecutive days". When you do something twice in five days, for example - say, Monday morning and Friday morning - the second time you do it is always only four days *after* the first time you did it. It's the second time out of five days, not a second time "five days later". Or for another comparison, playing twice in two days means that the second time is only one day after the first time. If it were forty-eight hours later, it would be twice in three days, not twice in two days.

Posted by: duffin_j | February 17, 2010 11:32 AM
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It's nice to see MD do well, but unfortunately I don't think anyone from the ACC (even Duke) is going to do well in the big dance this year. The ACC just doesn't look that good- especially compared to the Big East...

Posted by: kerewin1971 | February 17, 2010 10:12 AM
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Thanks Wilbon, I feel like I'm in the twilight zone with this positive Terps coverage from you. If you were impressed with what you saw Monday at Comcast, two words for you. March 3rd.

Posted by: nford2 | February 17, 2010 9:49 AM
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Mike - It's closer to three games in four days ... Saturday at 1:00 until Wednesday at 7:00 is closer to 100 hours. Five days is 120 hours.

Posted by: Rational_Man | February 17, 2010 9:47 AM
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All the positive columns worry me for some reason, but Maryland looks very good, with lots of players contributing. I think they are in the NCAA tourney no question, so long as they don't start losing regularly. It's great fun to watch the ACC this year. Tight games with exciting action. It does seem there should be more wins against non-conference, top ranked teams and I guess that's why the consensus is that the ACC is down. BUT I don't think it is all that much.

Posted by: tojo45 | February 17, 2010 8:18 AM
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