- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 17, 2008

Whenever Maryland convened a huddle in the second half, the Terrapins’ five starters provided assurances they could handle pesky Florida State if they remained on the court.

And so they did.

“We were telling coach [Gary] Williams ‘Let’s pick up the press more, let’s use a different press,’ ” senior forward James Gist said. “We were just ready in the second half. We really wanted to be in the game.”

On an afternoon when sixth man Cliff Tucker wasn’t on the bench because of the flu, Maryland provided a little more evidence for a season-long trend: The Terps will go as far as their starters can take them.

Yesterday, Maryland’s core five, which struggled in a humdrum first half, carried the Terps to an 82-72 victory at Comcast Center.

Greivis Vasquez scored 20 points and Landon Milbourne added a career-high 18 points for Maryland (17-9, 7-4 ACC).

Both sophomores, along with forwards Bambale Osby and Gist and guard Eric Hayes, were fixtures on the floor throughout the second half. The Terps’ bench combined to play 3:29 in the second, a small number even for a team with three players ranked in the top 11 of the ACC in average minutes.

Not to mention three days removed from a draining loss at Duke, a problem that manifested itself when Maryland trailed 40-32 at halftime to the Seminoles (14-12, 3-8), who were led by senior guard Ralph Mims’ career-high 26 points.

“We were beat up mentally and physically,” Williams said. “We really tried to win that game down at Duke, and I think there might have been a little carry over from that. When you get guys 18 to 22 years old, they thought they could win that game and when you don’t, you have this tremendous letdown for a little while and you have to get rid of that.”

His starters finally did in the second half. Milbourne and Vasquez combined to force a steal on the in-bounds pass after halftime, and Vasquez proceeded to drill three consecutive 3-pointers to give the Terps a 43-42 lead. But Maryland couldn’t coast, and Florida State remained within 68-64 with 6:19 left.

By then, the Terps’ starters returned to the floor, all but Vasquez enjoying a brief respite in the second half. And Milbourne, the small forward who entered the season with minimal experience, finished off the Seminoles.

It was nearly enough just to swish a 3-pointer and knock down a jumper to keep Florida State at a distance. But Milbourne’s slashing drive from the wing set up a one-handed slam while posterizing Uche Echefu with 3:04 left to make it 75-66 virtually finished the Seminoles off.

“I want to be that silent-killer kind of guy that people forget about and all of the sudden just comes out and does a good job,” Milbourne said. “… I feel good for myself and I feel good for the team because usually when something like that [dunk] happens during that time, it kind of pretty much tops the game off.”

It also washed away some of the residue of Wednesday’s loss at No. 2 Duke. The Terps have won seven of nine and dispatching a reeling opponent safely nestled in the bottom half of the league was a necessity as Maryland angles to improve its NCAA tournament chances.

Yesterday, it meant relying on five guys who remain the bedrock of this year’s bunch. All five starters played at least 31 minutes, the first time that has happened all season in a game decided in regulation.

“As a starting five, you have to take that responsibility,” said Milbourne, who like the rest of the starters was on the floor at the final buzzer. “You don’t want to blame each other, you don’t want to blame other people for our mistakes. We took it upon ourselves to pull through for that win.”

Terps report

Yesterday at Comcast Center

QUOTABLE

“He’s sick. He couldn’t [go]. The big thing is, keep him away from the other guys.”

— Maryland coach Gary Williams, finding a sliver of humor in freshman guard Cliff Tucker’s bout with the flu

BY THE NUMBERS

18 Points for sophomore Landon Milbourne. The forward, who also had three offensive rebounds, used his rugged inside play and polished outside game to set a new career high for the fourth time since New Year’s Day.

PLAY OF THE GAME

Maryland trailed 40-32 at halftime, but Milbourne and Greivis Vasquez applied pressure on the inbounds pass to start the second half and forced Ryan Reid into a turnover. That ignited an 11-2 spurt for the Terps, who thereafter never trailed by more than two points.

Patrick Stevens

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