- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Comcast Center fans who fruitlessly implored Greivis Vasquez to snare a rebound in the closing seconds of Maryland’s victory last night really could not be disappointed.

After all, Vasquez gave them nearly everything else they could possibly have wanted.

Vasquez rolled up a school-record tying 15 assists in addition to 13 points and nine rebounds as the Terrapins shrugged off a slow start and blitzed N.C. State 84-70 at Comcast Center.

James Gist scored a career-high 30 points for Maryland (16-8, 6-3 ACC), the bulk of his scoring coming off crisp feeds from Vasquez.

“I’m happy, but I’m not satisfied,” Vasquez said. “We’re just building our way. I want to make it to the tournament. The only thing I have in my mind is the NCAAs.”

At this point, it appears quite likely he’ll have his way well into March.

It was the sixth win in seven games for Maryland, a team that appeared hopelessly adrift less than two months ago and is now just a half-game out of second place in the ACC.

Spearheading it all has been Vasquez, who was criticized earlier in the season both for his poor shot selection and his recklessness.

Vasquez’s week already included a superlative performance (25 points, eight rebounds) in Wednesday’s victory at Boston College. Last night, he was even better.

He established an immediate connection with Gist, which helped Maryland withstand a few early spurts from the Wolfpack (15-8, 4-5). N.C. State bolted to a 31-22 lead, but Gist scored seven points during a 9-0 run to get the Terps back within two at halftime.

They didn’t need long to take the lead for good. With Vasquez leading the surgical strike, Maryland extended what became a 28-7 run through the next five minutes, almost effortlessly finding open men and the ensuing high percentage shots.

“When we start passing the ball like we can, and Greivis is probably the leader in that area, and the ball starts moving, guys get open shots,” coach Gary Williams said. “We’re a good enough shooting team that when we get open shots, we’re OK.”

Vasquez’s slick night found a spot in Maryland’s record books with 10:58 remaining when he slipped a pass to the wing, where Cliff Tucker drained a 3-pointer. It was his 15th assist, tying Terrell Stokes’ school record set in 1998.

“He was just finding anybody that was open, and we were just knocking down shots,” Hayes said.

The record-breaker never came, but Vasquez was no less effective down the stretch. He also clearly enjoyed himself, shooting a cocksure glance to a gleeful student section after a 3-pointer in the final two minutes locked up the victory.

His 10th rebound — one that would have given him only the second triple-double in school history — never came, but his play was as polished as at any point this season.

“I have to let the game come to me,” Vasquez said. “I have high confidence. It’s just about letting the game come to me and get everybody involved, and then get what I need to get, my points, my 3s and all that.”

Involving Gist is never a bad idea, especially with the senior rattling off his fifth 20-point outing in seven games. Gist was the first Terps player to score 30 points since Nik Caner-Medley reached that total against Temple in January 2006 and did so with astonishing ease (13-for-18 from the floor) against the Wolfpack’s staunch frontline.

The Terps are now off to a Wednesday meeting with No. 2 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where Vasquez also fell a rebound shy of a triple-double last season. The Venezuelan makes little secret of how much he savors the rowdy atmosphere in the Blue Devils’ cramped and storied gym.

That game will match the two hottest teams in the ACC. Duke is 9-0 in the league, and Maryland has not lost since the Blue Devils surged to a victory at Comcast two weeks ago. Much of the credit for the four-game spurt belongs to Vasquez, whose recent play has more than fulfilled his preseason hype.

“If he can keep on doing that, we’re probably not going to lose anymore,” Tucker said.

Terps report

Last night at Comcast Center

BY THE NUMBERS

15 Assists for Maryland point guard Greivis Vasquez, tying a school record. Vasquez matched the mark set by Terrell Stokes in the 1998-99 season opener against Western Carolina.

PLAY OF THE GAME

Late in Maryland’s 28-7 run bridging both halves, Vasquez tripped as he dribbled in the lane. But he still had the foresight to swat the ball toward Landon Milbourne, who charged along the baseline and delivered a dunk to make it 44-38 and prompt N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe to burn a timeout.

SEEN AND HEARD

Maryland’s video department was busy over the last few months recording praise for coach Gary Williams’ 600th victory, which he recorded Wednesday at Boston College. A tribute shown on the video board at halftime included testimonials from former Terps players Len Elmore, Walt Williams, D.J. Strawberry, Johnny Rhodes, Tahj Holden and Byron Mouton.

— Patrick Stevens

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