- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

— The short-term view of Maryland’s loss to Memphis in Saturday’s NCAA tournament second-round game at Sprint Center might pivot on guard Greivis Vasquez’s dismissive comments about the Tigers and Conference USA.

Vasquez, while disappointed with the end of his junior season, preferred to look through a wider lens after the 89-70 loss.

“It was fun. It’s a great college experience,” Vasquez said. “People will judge me and people will criticize me and people will say good things about me, but 20 years from now I’m probably going to sit down with my grandkids and laugh. This was unbelievable. I had a good time. I made some mistakes and did some good things. That’s part of growing as a person and growing as a player.”

In the future, Vasquez will probably be more cautious in his comments. And after Memphis fans mockingly chanted “A-C-C!” as the Terps (21-14) became the fifth team from the league to fall in the tournament’s first three days, chances are he won’t make conference affiliation an issue.

That’s a near certainty if Maryland coach Gary Williams has a say in the matter.

“He’s wrong in saying those things he said, but at the same time sometimes the translation gets lost a little bit [with] what he says and what exactly he said,” Williams said. “I know the reporter got the quote [and called Memphis coach] John Calipari to make sure he got that information, which I think is interesting.”

Calipari insisted it probably was not a source of prodding for the Tigers (33-3), who have won 27 straight.

“Where would we finish in the ACC? We don’t know,” Calipari said. “We’re not in the league. Where would we finish in the Big East? We don’t know. We’re not in that league. He said it, but I think we were more concerned about how we played the last game than what he said.”

The day-before gabbing was hardly Vasquez’s only concern against Memphis. He finished with 18 points, but every turnover or shaky shot was greeted with cheers from Tigers fans who made the trip.

Vasquez also earned a technical foul in the middle of the second half for mouthing off to an official.

“I was just frustrated because I wanted to get to the free throw line the whole game and didn’t want to settle for jump shots,” Vasquez said. “The referees did a good job, but I made contact every time I went in the air and they didn’t give me one call. That’s no excuse.”

Evans sizzles

While Vasquez’s mouth earned plenty of attention, guard Tyreke Evans did as much as anyone to sink the Terps.

The Memphis freshman scored a game-high 19 points, dictating the tempo along the way. Maryland was desperate to prevent Evans from driving the paint, and he repeatedly kicked it out to Antonio Anderson, who in turn found a guard open on the wing after the Terps provided help.

“He was in a whole other gear,” Anderson said. “He’s beating them up the court when the guy is already at halfcourt. He’s unstoppable. We’re probably going to get that from him every game, and when we continues to do that, he just makes things easier for guys like Robert [Dozier] to do dunks and tip-ins and things off transition.”

Neal’s final send-off

While Vasquez could turn pro in the coming weeks, and there’s always the possibility someone transfers, the one Terps player certain not to return next season is senior Dave Neal.

Neal improbably emerged as a vital undersized cog at the five for Maryland, starting the last 29 games before his career ended Saturday.

“It’s extremely tough,” he said. “The fact that I’ve been a lifelong Terp fan and all I ever wanted to be was a Maryland Terrapin is tough. It’s going to take a couple days to get over this feeling.”

Neal had nine points in 29 minutes against Memphis. He averaged 8.5 points for the season, but scored 11.9 points a game (on 52.1 percent shooting) this month.

“I went out with a bang, and that’s what people want to do their senior season playing basketball,” Neal said. “You want to go out with a bang and be remembered as a great basketball player. A lot of people are going to look back at this team and be like ‘This is a really good team, and they showed a lot of people they are a really great team.’ ”

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