- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2008

Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams collected a milestone victory Friday night at Comcast Center.

Greivis Vasquez ensured the silver-haired coach won’t soon forget it.

Vasquez made a game-tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation, then provided a little of everything in overtime as Maryland avoided an early-season pitfall and dismissed Vermont 89-74. It was Williams’ 400th victory in 20 seasons with the Terrapins, but few came in so harrowing a fashion.

“In any good season, there’s a win like that along the line when it seems like there’s no chance to win and then you win,” Williams said. “It’s a good feeling because it kind of cements the idea that if you work hard enough good things will happen.”

Vasquez had 26 points and nine rebounds and sophomore Adrian Bowie added 17 points and six rebounds for Maryland (3-0), which scored the first 17 points of overtime.

It was impossible for the Terps to avoid thinking about the similarities between Friday night and early-season stumbles against American and Ohio of last season. It was especially true in the second half, when forward Marqus Blakely (23 points and 11 rebounds) helped Vermont surge to an eight-point lead.

Those setbacks haunted Maryland last season; even as the Terps piled some victories - and later added far worse losses - those December losses were ominously evoked. Maryland avoided such a fate this time, even though it trailed the Catamounts for almost all of the final 13 minutes of regulation.

“This is a different team this year and we showed it when we came back from when we were losing,” guard Eric Hayes said. “Once we took it into overtime, we just took it to them.”

Vasquez, who presented Williams with the game ball after he became the third coach in ACC history to reach 400 wins, was the catalyst. He was whistled moments earlier for an offensive foul while driving the baseline against Garvey Young. But after Blakely split a pair of free throws to put Vermont up 72-69, Catamounts coach Mike Lonergan called timeout with 16.7 seconds left to set his defense.

Williams called for a perimeter shot with plenty of time left to leave open the possibility of a rebound and a second attempt. And while Vasquez wasn’t the only option, he intuited the favorable odds of taking the tying attempt.

“I was saying they’re either going to love me or they’re going to hate me,” Vasquez said.

Love them they did. As overtime commenced, the junior offered a wide grin mixed with a hint of a snarl - and a pat on the back for Bowie, his old high school teammate. The Montrose Christian combo struck in overtime, with Bowie twice scoring on putbacks as Maryland pulled away. Vasquez connected on another 3-pointer with 3:37 remaining to push the Terps’ lead to 77-72, prompting the Venezuelan to break out his trademark shimmy.

Vermont (1-2), already worn down from Maryland’s rally, never recovered. The Catamounts missed their first seven shots in overtime and were blanked in the extra session until Blakely’s layup with 22.4 seconds left - the junior star’s first points from the floor since more than eight minutes remained in regulation.

For Williams, who raised his arms in exultation as his players ran toward the bench at the end of regulation, Friday night was a five-minute session to savor along with the milestone he secured.

“It was a lot scarier than it needed to be,” Bowie said. “But we got the win, so it’s all good.”

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