Saturday, February 09, 2008

Maryland 84, N.C. State 70

Ladies and gentlemen of the Terrapin Nation, we got ourselves a basketball team. Yes, after all the early season hand-wringing, consider this bunch officially straighted up and flying right.

That was James Gist, flying high with a career high 30 Saturday night.
And how about Vasquez? He went off for 13 points, 15 assists and 9 rebounds. I can't believe that there are more than a handful of players in the country -- or in the history of Maryland basketball -- who are capable of a line like that. Once in a while, great point guards go off for 15 assists, but how many can also score and rebound like Vasquez?

Now, part of the reason he piled up the assists was because his teammates didn't miss much. The Terps shot 20 for 27 in the second half and pulled away from a pretty good N.C. State team that came into Comcast with plenty of intensity and desire.

But it was the Terps who took over in the second half and they are now alone in third place in the ACC at 6-3. They also won for the second time in the alternate home yellow uniforms. Great article on this in the Post's D.C. Sports Bog --

DC Sports Bog - Terps Go Gold

Quite a turnaround from earlier this year, huh? Let's all give Gary Williams some props for turning this thing around; it's a team that's not only playing like it belongs in the tournament; it's playing like a team that could make a run in the tournament.

This all feels a bit similar to what happened last year; albeit with a different flow. Last season, you might recall, the Terps took care of business in the non-conference schedule (unlike this year), but went 3-6 through the first nine games of the ACC. So, it was at exactly this juncture that fans didn't think much of the '06-'07 Terps. But then the team led by D.J. Strawberry, Mike Jones and Ikene Ibekwe ripped off 7 straight wins to go 10-6 in the league and earn a 4-seed in the tournament. So it just goes to show you 2 things:
1.) The Terps are playing great now and should make the tournament.
2.) There's a still a very long way to go.

Bottom line: it took a while -- much longer than fans, players, and even Gary expected -- for this team to gel and understand its identity and respective roles. For example:

  • Greivis had to learn (continues to learn) that playing under control = playing great.
  • Gist had to learn how to be the man, and not a role player.
  • Osby had to learn that he had enough game to take on anyone in the ACC.
  • Gary had to learn what he had with this freshman class; i.e. who is legit, who can do what, who can he trust in big situations.
  • The fans had to learn some patience. I am one of them. So are you. NO ONE (OK, Maybe Ira Gluck, who is holding a bet for Md. to win the national championship at 150-1) thought the Terps were headed for a great season after losses to VCU, Ohio, and American. Once in a while, you gotta hang in there. All of sudden, no one is whining about Gary's inability to recruit anymore.
  • Remember, even though Gist and Vasquez started last year and Hayes and Osby played plenty of minutes, those guys were all role players. This year, it's their team. Big difference.
  • Landon Milbourne almost never broke a sweat last year; he was buried on the bench. This year he's become a reliable, go-to scorer, and more so as the season goes on (has a lot of Byron Mouton in him, less gritty, better scorer).
On and on it goes.

Next stop: Durham.

The next "biggest game of the season" takes place at 7 p.m. at Cameron Indoor. Should be very interesting. I like Maryland's chances, but Duke is playing better basketball than anyone in the country right now. The good news is that the Terps aren't far behind.

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