- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 11, 2009

Among the many talents Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez possesses, one of the most impressive was on display in the final nine minutes Saturday at Comcast Center.

Vasquez methodically helped the Terrapins reduce an eight-point deficit while raising an index finger to his lips, shushing a crowd to which he repeatedly offered some choice words. A furious Vasquez snarled to the end of Maryland’s 68-61 defeat of Georgia Tech, simmering but in control as the Terrapins won their ACC opener in choppy fashion.

“I don’t want people to come over to me that don’t believe in what I do and what I’m trying to do for the team,” Vasquez explained. “We’re 12-3. We were 9-5 last year about this time. What the hell were they thinking? It’s a completely different team. If they don’t want to believe in us, they can get the hell out.”

Vasquez scored 16 points but shot 5-for-18 from the floor. Yet he also assisted on three 3-pointers in a closing rally as the Terps (12-3, 1-0) edged the scuffling Yellow Jackets (9-6, 0-2) with a late flourish.

Eric Hayes scored a season-high 17 points for the Terps, who overcame a ghastly 23-for-73 (31.5 percent) shooting effort to avoid losing again just three days after a stunning collapse against Morgan State. Maybe that loss had Vasquez in this particular frame of mind against Georgia Tech, which played without junior forward Zachery Peacock (illness) but got guard Moe Miller (broken nose) back after a seven-game absence.

Of course, Vasquez had plenty of reasons for disgruntlement against the Yellow Jackets. The Terps repeatedly missed open looks from the perimeter, and Georgia Tech’s redoubtable size offered little incentive to penetrate the paint.

Maryland, meanwhile, fell behind 50-40 with 9:44 to play, and longtime teammate Dave Neal believed it was as angry as he had seen Vasquez in a while.

But not too angry.

“We’re all confident Greivis isn’t going to lose his head,” Neal said. “He’s been doing it since he’s been here. He loves to showboat and loves to talk with people. I think that gives Greivis a little spark. He didn’t shoot the ball well, but he hit some big shots down the stretch there we needed him to hit. When Greivis starts jawing, that means he’s into the game.”

A smattering of boos cascaded earlier in the half, and Vasquez was not willing to forget it so quickly. He assisted on Hayes’ 3-pointer to finally give Maryland the lead at 53-52 and unleashed some comments on a suddenly united crowd.

It was more of the same in the closing stages. Maryland, fully exploiting Georgia Tech’s 28 turnovers, took the lead for good on Adrian Bowie’s two foul shots with just less than a minute left. Vasquez offered further salutations to the crowd after he converted a pair of free throws to make it 65-61 with 17.5 seconds left.

“I’m not here for fans,” Vasquez said. “I’m here for myself, my family and coach [Gary] Williams. My goal is to win a lot of ACC games and take the team to the [NCAA] tournament. I don’t really care what they say, because I know they’re happy we won, but they didn’t believe when we were down eight with eight minutes left in the game.”

In all fairness, the best reason to believe Maryland would ultimately win stemmed from the Yellow Jackets’ sloppiness in the face of some pressure defense, as well as several traveling calls. It is an unsound strategy to expect many more opponents to prove so accommodating in the future.

Then again, maybe a detractor or two in the first few rows at Miami and Florida State this week will help Maryland outlast a conference opponent despite some in-game deficiencies. It certainly worked Saturday.

“That just gets him going,” forward Landon Milbourne said. “You never know what might get a player going sometimes. For me , it might be a dunk. For him, it might be talking and getting the crowd up.

“If that’s what makes him play good, we encourage him to do that.”

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