- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2008

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. There were telltale signs of a celebration in Maryland’s locker room last night, from the muffled sounds emanating through cinder block walls to coach Gary Williams’ askew silver hair in his postgame press conference.

The man who always let his opponents see him sweat had his 600th victory. And his resurrected team had its ninth win in 11 tries.

Williams, 62, did not wax poetic about his latest milestone, achieved over 30 seasons at American, Boston College, Ohio State and alma mater Maryland. After all, his Terrapins had just squeezed out a 70-65 victory at Boston College to continue their charge back from the brink of a lost season.

Maryland (15-8, 5-3 ACC) got there with 25 points from Greivis Vasquez and 23 more from James Gist.

Williams received the game ball from his players, who scribbled, Congrats Coach Williams 600 Wins! on the dry erase board in the locker room. But the Terps were the biggest winners as they reached the midpoint in conference play with a winning record less than seven weeks after losing at home to American.

They’re a great group because of the way they battled this year, Williams said. They don’t have to prove that any more, what type of people they are. Where we were in December was tough. Now we’ve got to go from here. When we get serious in there, the thing we talked about was building from here, not being satisfied ever the rest of the year, no matter where that takes us.

Vasquez, who had something of a personal score to settle with Boston College (12-9, 3-5), enjoyed a sterling outing. He fouled out of the teams’ December meeting at Comcast Center with 10:30 remaining, his night’s coup de grace a technical immediately after he picked up his fourth foul.

He did not spend nearly as much time watching last night. Without a single foul all night and a hot hand from nearly everywhere on the floor, he was free to tear the Eagles asunder and improve Maryland’s brightening NCAA tournament hopes.

Vasquez pestered BC guard Tyrese Rice (13 points) for much of the night but proved especially valuable on offense. He authored the bulk of a 10-0 run that erased Maryland’s last deficit; his steal and dunk made it a four-point game, and he soon added a drive and a 3-pointer to push it to 57-48.

I’m trying to get better as a player, Vasquez said. It’s about time I lead my team the way I need to lead it. I’m ready to fight. I’m not going to be like I used to be: I’m all excited and then we lose the next game and I’m not excited.

Maryland expanded its lead to 64-54 and seemed poised to cruise to a relatively stress-free finish. Instead, the Eagles ripped off an 11-2 run with the help of turnovers by Vasquez and Eric Hayes. Yet 30 seconds after Rice drilled an NBA-range 3-pointer, Hayes responded in kind to make it 69-65.

BC nearly made it a one-point game again when Rakim Sanders drilled a 3 from the top of the key, but official Karl Hess had granted a timeout to Eagles coach Al Skinner before the shot. Skinner looked incredulous, and BC proceeded to miss a pair of shots after the timeout and help Maryland avert a last-second scare as in Saturday’s squeaker at Georgia Tech.

We came out in the second half and we gave them a chance to win the game, senior forward Bambale Osby said of the Georgia Tech game. Boston College, they got it down to one, but I don’t think there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that we were going to win the game.

Williams clapped briefly at the buzzer, then went back to a locker room harboring legitimate NCAA tournament hopes and the program’s best record halfway through conference play since the 2002-03 team was 6-2.

They said they were happy for me, said Williams, whose career record is 600-336 for a .641 percentage. I’ll take them at their word.

Equipment manager Al Tiffany paused on his way out of the building and erased the Terps’ postgame memo to their coach. Even if it was just a basic task, a message could be construed in the simple act: The Terps must keep moving on.

It’s an emotional night, Gist said. This is a big night for Coach. I’m proud of him and I’m proud of the team, and hopefully we can keep this thing rolling.

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