- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

On a night that featured a delay to clean up after a player grew ill on the court, perhaps it was fitting someone ultimately would regurgitate a lead.

Maryland just wishes it didn’t keep up with the night’s theme.

The Terrapins stumbled to a 69-65 loss to Virginia Tech last night at an electric Comcast Center despite guard Greivis Vasquez’s 25 points.

Bambale Osby had 18 points for Maryland (17-10, 7-5 ACC), which suffered a season sweep at the hands of the Hokies.

“It was a strange game, and there wasn’t a lot of flow to it, and those are the games where you can definitely feel the game slipping from you at certain points in the game,” Maryland guard Eric Hayes said.

Virginia Tech (15-11, 6-6) snapped a three-game losing streak and re-invigorated what appeared as dim NCAA tournament hopes after a blowout loss at North Carolina on Saturday. A.D. Vassallo scored 19 points for the Hokies, who still have much work to do to improve their postseason hopes.

The Terps had their own reasons for a schizophrenic performance. Decimated by serious foul issues throughout the first half, Maryland followed up a dominant start by limping through the final nine minutes before the break.

Nevertheless, Maryland pushed the lead back to 10 points and appeared prepared to pull away. But the Hokies chipped at the deficit, and Vassallo’s 3-pointer with 3:32 left gave Virginia Tech its first lead at 53-51.

“When you get in those situations, you want to be tough enough to put teams away,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team committed 18 turnovers. “Tonight we couldn’t do it. We’d been doing a good job in the second half of games in conference play, but we couldn’t get it done.”

Vasquez replied, but the Hokies had more outside shots to work with. Hank Thorns and Vassallo drilled 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, bumping the edge to 61-54.

Hayes’ 3-pointer pulled Maryland within 64-61 with 33 seconds left, but Vassallo made two foul shots moments later, and the Terps never again pulled any closer than three.

It was an unusual close loss for Maryland, which had won five games by 10 points or fewer since losing 67-66 at Virginia Tech on Jan. 12.

There were some testy moments, with fans booing D.C.-area product Jeff Allen (14 points) and Baltimore’s Malcolm Delaney, a pair of freshmen who opted to attend Virginia Tech. Delaney smiled and pointed to the student section in the closing seconds, earning him even more wrath.

With foul trouble plucking Osby, James Gist and Vasquez off the floor in succession and guard Cliff Tucker (flu) dressed but glued to the bench, the Terps deployed an atypical lineup in the first half. Walk-on Jason McAlpin and freshmen Adrian Bowie, Braxton Dupree and Shane Walker joined Hayes, and the Maryland offense did not prosper during that stretch.

“Our bench has to step up,” Vasquez said on a night in which Maryland’s bench was held scoreless. “They have to step up. [Gist and Osby] went away, and then we couldn’t score. If I don’t score, then we’re stuck. I give you guys reason to talk about me if I turn the ball over, but if you don’t have anybody to help you, how can you score? That should tell you something.”

The agony of the first half’s final minutes were extended when Virginia Tech’s Dorenzo Hudson fell ill and vomited while McAlpin attempted a free throw attempt. A delay of more than eight minutes ensued, but even a breather couldn’t ignite the Terps’ offense.

A lead as big as 14 was shorn to two by halftime, but the Hokies couldn’t tie it even as Maryland continued to struggle from the field. The Terps shot 1-for-12 with eight turnovers during Virginia Tech’s 15-3 run, but Osby’s three-point play with 16:34 remaining snapped the drought.

Hudson, sporting a new jersey and in all likelihood a less sour stomach, then drilled a 3-pointer to cut it back to 34-32. But the Terps then scored nine straight points to expand the lead again — only to cough it up later.

“The whole game was played in streaks, and we didn’t get it done,” said Williams, whose team visits Miami on Saturday. “It’s very disappointing, but at the same time we’re still in pretty good shape in the league.”

Terps report

Last night at Comcast Center

SEEN AND SMELLED

If you go to enough basketball games, you will see nearly every kind of quirk. Last night, it was a vomit delay.

Virginia Tech’s Dorenzo Hudson grew ill late in the first half as Maryland’s Jason McAlpin was at the free throw line. What followed was a delay of more than eight minutes to clean up the aftermath.

After the trainer-accompanied Hudson skulked back to the locker room with a towel over his head, a motley contingent of three Maryland team managers and two officials set to work to get the floor spick-and-span. Eventually, a lady with a mop was summoned and prompted chants of “M-V-P” from the easily amused student section.

BY THE NUMBERS

3 Points scored by Maryland in the final 9:17 of the regurgitation-marred first half. The Terps shot 1-for-10 from the floor and committed five turnovers in that span as a 28-14 lead shrank to 31-29 at the break.

Patrick Stevens

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