Gregory delivers in return for Terps

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It didn’t take long for Dino Gregory to make a difference Saturday for Maryland.

The Terrapins needed every bit he — and the rest of the roster — could provide against Eastern Kentucky.

Gregory scored eight points in his season debut and Greivis Vasquez had 20 points as Maryland outlasted the Colonels 83-72 at Comcast Center.

Landon Milbourne added 19 for the Terps (6-3), who head into a 10-day break for exams after scratching out a victory that had the look of a rout in its early stages.

Much of that was due to Vasquez, who came off the bench for the first time in more than two seasons after arriving late for a shootaround. He struggled to blend in for much of the first half, then had a 13-point outburst after the break to help fend off the Colonels (7-3).

The day’s notable development was Gregory’s return. Less than 15 minutes before tip, it was revealed the junior — who was suspended for the first eight games — would make his first career start.

There had been anticipation of the moment for weeks, as Maryland was short-handed in the frontcourt for the season’s first month. And while the Terps were eager for his return, so was his family. Gregory’s brother sported a T-shirt proclaiming “Dino is back” that included a picture of Fred Flintstone’s pet decked out in a No. 33 jersey.

And Gregory didn’t need much time to influence things. A little more than two minutes in, he connected on a 13-foot jumper that represented significant growth in his defense-oriented game.

Gregory’s return had a trickle-down effect for the rest of the rotation. Freshman Jordan Williams, who started the first eight games, came off the bench and played 9 minutes. Meanwhile, James Padgett didn’t play at all, the first time

Gregory matched his career-high by halftime, and in that time the Terps had already alternated between stunning and sluggish in a matter of minutes — a trend that was to continue for most of the game.

Maryland led 24-8 in the middle of the first half, but the Colonels closed within 33-32 just moments before the break. The Terps rattled off the next 12 points, seemingly breaking things open again.

It wasn’t to be. The Colonels rallied again, tying it at 60 and evoking memories of Maryland’s pre-conference losses to Ohio, American and Morgan State in the last two seasons.

“We got out to big lead and we seemed to think the game was over,” coach Gary Williams said. “They know how to play and know what to do and it hurt us.”

This time, though, the previously slumping Vasquez and Gregory prevented a humbling loss. Gregory swatted a shot to help the Terps sustain a 62-60 lead, and Vasquez made consecutive 3-pointers to expand the edge to 68-62.

The Colonels never entirely faded, hanging within five at the final media timeout. But Maryland finished on an 8-2 run to lock up the victory.

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