Vasquez back on track

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A little dead-tree edition preview – a story just filed off Maryland’s defeat of Florida Atlantic today at Comcast Center …

 

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It was just earlier this month that Greivis Vasquez couldn’t quite figure out what was hampering the explosive game that led him to flirt with entering the NBA Draft. The source of the woes that left him looking barely like the dynamo Maryland was accustomed to seeing wear No. 21.

Three games later, his mind at ease. His shot is falling. And Vasquez is most definitely back.

“I don’t know if I was putting pressure [on myself] or not, but things weren’t really smooth with myself,” Vasquez said. “Obviously, I had to get myself going as a  leader of the team. The last couple weeks I’ve felt pretty good, and I’m just going to continue to get better.”

The Terrapins,  barely a fortnight from the start of conference play, aren’t complaining about their senior star’s timely emergence.

Vasquez scored 26 points and added eight rebounds and five assists Sunday as Maryland dispatched Florida Atlantic 72-59 at Comcast Center.

It was the third straight outburst of 20 or more points for Vasquez, who has reclaimed his accustomed place as Maryland’s leading scorer (15.9 a night) and assists (6.2). In this game, it was probably necessary.

The Terps (8-3) played without sophomore guard Sean Mosley, who suffered a slight ankle sprain in practice on Christmas night. Rather than risk further injury, Mosley sat and Cliff Tucker provided 11 points in his first start of the season.

The refreshed Vasquez, though, produced the most significant difference, authoring a performance that seemed unlikely just a month ago.

Maybe it was the expectations of two countries – both his native Venezuela, where his performance is followed closely, and here in the United States, where he faced substantial preseason expectations. Perhaps it was a hectic schedule.

Possibly, it was eagerness to get to the meaningful meat of the schedule and visits to some of his favorite venues. No matter the cause, Vasquez’s early funk was equal parts befuddling, disconcerting and unexpected.

“It looked like he was almost flat to me in those early games,” coach Gary Williams said. “He played all summer, went into the draft, did  all that, played for his country. All the sudden it was like ‘Here’s college basketball season,’ Now I think he’s had a chance to look at it and see where he could get better.”

Unquestionably, a halting of the schedule helped. Yesterday’s defeat of the Owls (5-7) was just the Terps’ third game in three weeks, and the hiatus for exams could have provided the pause Vasquez so clearly needed.

While the scoring is a welcome asset, Vasquez’s choices have improved as well. Some of it might be the function of temporarily shifting from comparable competition to some of the plankton of the Terps’ schedule. But he’s made 28 of 50 shots in the last three games, an indication his decisions are sharper of late.

“He’s shooting good shots and not forcing anything,” Tucker said. “He’s also getting other players involved. A lot of people probably think he’s selfish, but he’s getting the team involved and he’s shooting good shots. When he plays well, I think everybody else plays well, too.”

And so it was in the second half against Florida Atlantic. Despite enduring an unenviable defensive matchup against 5-foot-6 Raymond Taylor (16 points), Vasquez masterfully orchestrated the Terps’ crisp halfcourt offense, dropping 14 points, six rebounds and five assists after the break to secure Maryland’s third straight win.

“At some point when you do too much, it really catches up to you and you have to get a little break,” Vasquez said. “The break was mentally. I was going through a tough time because I was thinking too much in my mind. Physically, I feel pretty good. So I just had to get that out of my mind and play well.”

Patrick Stevens

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