Admittedly, junior Maryland Terrapins guard Greivis Vasquez has had a rough year.
In his own words, he has not been the kind of player for the Terps that he was expected to be for a while now.
“I have no excuses for my struggles,” said Vasquez. “I haven’t been shooting well for about a month. It was nothing I wasn’t doing right. The ball sometimes just feels heavy on me. But yesterday I felt like I had my game face on. I was ready for the team to look to me to answer the challenge in front of us.”
Whatever motivation Vasquez needed to get out of his recent funk worked to perfection.
Maryland (17-9, 6-6 ACC) shocked the college basketball world yesterday by defeating No.3 ranked North Carolina, 88-85, in OT in front a raucous Comcast Center crowd.
Maryland skipper Gary Williams was fired up in his pregame walk to the bench.
He visibly urged the crowd to clap their hands, and get the support going early, as if he knew something everyone else did not.
Emotions were running high for the fearless group, as this divisional matchup was just seconds away from starting.
Here we go again folks.
Down nine points with a little under two minutes left in regulation, Maryland got angry.
Without hesitation, it was Vasquez that saved his team’s season.
He poured in 35 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists to record the first triple-double in 22 years in College Park.
“I will never give up,” said a defiant Vasquez, after the celebration spilled onto the court.
Vasquez outdueled his counterpart Ty Lawson with so many knifing drives to the basket.
With defenders glued to his jersey, Vasquez stepped up at almost every instance to hit a huge shot when his team needed him. He scored Maryland’s first 16 points in the game’s first six-and-a-half minutes.
Only to see UNC go on a scoring run, to build a 16-point lead with 15 minutes left in the second half.
North Carolina (24-3, 10-3 ACC) was uncharacteristically flat, and several players insisted they did not play very well as a team unit.
“Greivis had a heck of a game,” North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington said. He made shots and got his team going. On the other hand we were flat out there. We were being selfish.”
North Carolina recorded a season-low in assists, registering five for the entire contest.
Led by Ty Lawson’s 24 points, UNC was let down by their backups. Maryland outscored the North Carolina bench 41-5.
Big man and former college player of the year, Tyler Hansborough was held by the Maryland press to 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
Filling in nicely for the Terps in their undersized frontcourt, was feisty forward Cliff Tucker. He scored a career-high 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting.
Tucker said he used his coach’s pregame speech in the locker room to ignite his competitive spirit.
“Coach wrote something on the board that stuck with me,” said Tucker. He said, “Someone nobody knows needs to step up tonight.” “I just got in my mind the whole night that I wanted to be that guy.”
Maryland launched a comeback with the score set at 52-36, with 14:17 on the game clock.
Cliff Tucker and shooting guard Eric Hayes each made three-pointers in a 12-2 run, that cut the Tar Heel lead to six points.
After North Carolina went ahead 62-55, Hayes then made two foul shots, Tucker hit another three-pointer, and added two points on a layup.
Maryland closed the gap to a maddening 64-62.
In the next offensive series, North Carolina’s Ty Lawson hit a jumper, to start his team on an 8-0 run. North Carolina led 76-70 with 1:24 left to go in the game.
But it wasn’t enough.
At the 1:24 minute mark “game Greivis” scored on a nifty layup.
Then, Hayes made a layup with 1:05 to go, and Vasquez shook off the steely defense for a game-tying basket with eight seconds left on the clock.
These two juggernauts battled it out for 40 minutes, and fittingly the game would go into an extra period, with the scored knotted at 76-76.
North Carolina scored the first basket in overtime, but their score was answered quickly by Vasquez and Tucker.
Tucker made a layup, and Vasquez nailed a three-pointer to give Maryland their first lead since 18-17.
Ty Lawson buried a three-pointer of his own to tie the score again.
Like a broken record, Vasquez came up huge for the Terps. He coolly drained a three-pointer to put Maryland back up again 84-81.
Lawson was fouled on the other end of the court, and made two free throws.
The pressure was back on Maryland. The Terrapins played keep-away until Eric Hayes was fouled with 11.3 seconds left. Hayes made his two foul shots to extend his team’s lead to a tight 86-83.
North Carolina’s last points were scored by Wayne Ellington, as he made two foul shots.
Vasquez received the ball in the game’s waning seconds, and was fouled. He hammered the nail in the Carolina coffin, and netted his 34th and 35th points of the game.
Pandemonium erupted in College Park when the buzzer sounded. Gary Williams praised the Comcast Center crazies for helping their team stay hungry. “This was a Cole Field House crowd here tonight,” said an appreciative Williams.
Despite all the day’s drama, once thing is for certain.
North Carolina has no worries about making the NCAA tournament.
The national championship still might be in their future, when March Madness is over.
However, the win means everything to the Maryland Terrapins.
This upset victory puts the Terps back on the selection committee’s radar, and further fogs the postseason playoff picture, at least for one more week.
Fear the turtle!