- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

KANSAS CITY, Mo. | Maryland wasn’t sure it would be in the NCAA tournament a week ago.

Now it’s making plans for a longer-than-one-day stay.

The 10th-seeded Terrapins pulled away from seventh-seeded California 84-71 on Thursday afternoon at the Sprint Center, clinching a second-round date with second-seeded Memphis.

Greivis Vasquez scored 27 points for the Terps (21-13), who won their ninth consecutive NCAA tournament opener. Dave Neal had 15 points and Eric Hayes added 14 for Maryland.

Theo Robertson scored 22 points for the Golden Bears (22-11).

What figured to be a tight game met expectations until well into the second half. But California never fully recovered after Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Terps a 59-51 edge.

The Golden Bears got within seven, and looked to have a chance to get closer after Adrian Bowie missed a pair of free throws. But Dino Gregory chased down the rebound, and Vasquez soon converted a 3-point play. Maryland forced a five-second call on the next inbound play, and Hayes immediately found Dave Neal for a layup to make it 68-56.

Gregory stifled what little hope the resurgent Bears had, tipping in a miss and slamming home a teammate’s miss on consecutive possessions to bump the lead to 15 points.

Maryland, of course, was teetering on the brink of tournament inclusion when it began ACC tournament play a week ago. But victories over N.C. State and Wake Forest vaulted the Terps into the field for perhaps the most unexpected NCAA berth in coach Gary Williams’ 20 seasons at his alma mater.

Now the Terps will seek their first trip to the tournament’s second weekend since 2003. It’s a scenario with some similarities to Williams’ first trip to the regional semifinals at Maryland — an unheralded team that must upend a vaunted opponent coached by John Calipari.

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