Coming into their quarterfinal ACC tournament game against the No. 8 Wake Forest Demon Deacons, the Maryland Terrapins were determined to attack the basket.
Four players reached double figures as the Terrapins (20-12) marched through the Demon Deacons’ zone defense for a stunning 75-64 win at the Georgia Dome.
Junior guard (and NBA prospect) Greivis Vasquez led the Terrapins with a game-high 22 points.
Vasquez can be a streaky performer. In past games, he has stepped up to answer his team’s prayers, and in others, he has let them down.
Thankfully, the Terps have lived another day with him leading the charge.
Maryland’s most impressive stat of the night was their allowed field goal percentage; they held Wake Forest (25-6) to their lowest shooting clip of the season.
Wake shot just 29.7 percent from the field, making 22 of 74 of their attempts.
And to make matters worse for the Deacs, they could not contain Maryland’s drives into the offensive zone.
Maryland took advantage of their 36-31 halftime lead and increased their advantage to double figures early in the second half.
Terrapins coach Gary Williams believes these back-to-back wins (a first-round 74-69 victory over N.C. State preceded this game on Thursday) should convince the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee that his gutsy squad deserves an at-large bid.
Jokingly, he had “Win 2” t-shirts made up before the ACC tournament began. The garments' real purpose was to provide motivation for his players and to help them understand that their mission for postseason success is not over.
“I just wanted our players to understand that if we won two, we would be in pretty good shape,” said Williams. “Now, if we don’t win tomorrow, it’s not because we came with 'Win 2' t-shirts.”
Maryland moves on to play ACC rival Duke on Saturday.
In Friday's contest, James Johnson led the Demon Deacons with 20 points, but the team’s poor offensive showing overall may have hurt their chances at making a solid run in the Big Dance.
“This was a wake-up call for us,” said Johnson. “We deserve to be in the tournament, and we can prove ourselves there. I know our guys our going to bounce back.”
Easier said than done, James.
Having confidence and believing in yourself is paramount during March Madness. Whether you are a nationally ranked powerhouse or a small school out of the Midwest, it is anybody’s game once the whistle blows.
For the Terrapins, it's must-win from here on out to keep hope alive. They learned their lesson in a game ten days ago versus this same Wake Forest team: They must attack the boards and force their opponenets into taking rushed shots.
The idea was to make Wake Forest play the game at the Terrapins' speed. Maryland watched, pleased, as Wake Forest missed shot after shot. They then punished the Deacs from beyond the arc on the other side.
Maryland used a pair of three-pointers during a 14-2 second half run and never relinquished the lead after that.
After Wake Forest guard L.D. Williams missed a long-range shot from the corner, Greivis Vasquez answered with a three-pointer on Maryland’s next possession.
James Johnson was impatient and forced an ill-advised three-pointer that missed badly on when Wake next had the ball, and the Terrapins' true freshman Sean Mosley made him pay with a long-range bomb of his own on the next play in the series.
And off Maryland went to make their healthy crowd very happy for making the trip down south.
Perimeter shooting was a major problem all night for Wake Forest. Their starters’ shooting woes were the difference between winning and losing tonight.
Al-Farouq Aminu was 2-of-12 shooting. Outside specialist Jeff Teague made 3-of-13 from the floor, Williams went 3-of-9, and Chas McFarland missed all four of his shot attempts. Johnson made half of his 18 attempts, but the "non-Fab Five" finished a pitiful 17-of-56 for the game.
Wake Forest made 3-of-25 three-pointers, including 1-of-15 down the stretch, as they tried in vain to cut the Maryland lead to single digits.
Maryland gambled that Wake Forest would have a bad shooting performance. Their forwards did a great job of sealing off the lane, when Teague and Williams tried to get the ball into Johnson. No quick baskets were allowed by the strong pressure defense.
Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio has to be perplexed as to why his team was in such a hurry against Maryland. They were the taller, more aggressive squad, according to the submitted pre-game analysis..
Of course, when you try to shoot your way out of a hole, the results tend to go in the opponent’s favor, and that's what happened to the Demon Deacons here.
Johnson was a one-man show for his team; he grabbed 12 rebounds to go along with his buckets, but no other Deac had more than seven boards.
“We have guys who can get in the lane, but it didn’t happen tonight," said Johnson. “Maryland just played good defense.”
Maryland reserve guard Eric Hayes responded to the death of a long-time friend with 21 points in Maryland’ first round ACC win versus N.C. State.
He had several key assists in Maryland’s big win over Wake Forest and is now averaging just over 12 points per game since becoming the Terrapins’ top reserve.