Jan. 10, 4 p.m.: Maryland won’t play its first road game until Wednesday, but Greivis Vasquez played today’s home game against Georgia Tech as if he were in the most hostile environment in the ACC.
When Vasquez missed a shot or made a mistake, a cluster of Maryland students either booed the guard or yelled for Vasquez to shape up. And Vasquez responded at least three times by turning toward his classmates (once while dribbling the ball), putting his index finger over his lips and telling them to “Shut the [expletive] up!”
Vasquez sat at his locker after the comeback victory -- one Maryland desperately needed --- and offered a clear message to a fair-weather fan base: “If they don’t believe in us, they can get the hell out. We don’t need them anyway. We need the people who will support us, who are with us. I know they are all happy now, but they didn’t believe in us when we were down.”
Vasquez’s frequent back-and-forth with his own fans was one of the most compelling aspects in a sloppily played, ragged game. And it added a new layer to the off-again, on-again relationship between Maryland’s best player and a fan base accustomed to better days in College Park.
Until the Morgan State game, Maryland had done everything it needed to do to piece together a NCAA tournament-quality non-conference profile. But attendance at Comcast Center has been a problem throughout the non-conference season. The fans that have come do in fact cheer (or boo). But there have been lots of empty seats, even for a semi-marquee matchup with Michigan.
Coach Gary Williams won’t criticize the crowd, but to message board critics said, "I'm not going on the Internet, but if you hear this, here is yours." And Vasquez never shies away from an opinion, and he has often mentioned in recent years how quickly the fans jump on and off the Terrapins’ bandwagon.
At one point, the fans were taken aback by Vasquez’s animosity. Coming out of a timeout with 9 seconds remaining – the victory secured – Vasquez walked over in front of the Maryland student section and unleashed a slew of expletives, telling the fans to “shut up!”
One student, bewildered, responded, “But we love you, Greivis.”
Vasquez turned away.
“They don’t believe in what we do,” Vasquez said. “I didn’t shoot well, no one else did. But they always get on me. They are always expecting something out of me. I’m not here for the fans. I’m here for myself, my family and Coach Williams.”
Vasquez said Duke, North Carolina and Virginia Tech have student sections that support their teams regardless of performance. And he said to think this team resembles last year’s team that struggled through non-conference play is wrong, adding, “We are a totally different team. What the hell are they thinking?”
Maryland is the only team in the RPI’s top 100 yet to play a road game. That changes Wednesday, when the Terps travel to Miami. Vasquez has always relished playing on the road.
“Everyone hates us on the road,” he said. “It might be me. That’s why I want our fans on our side. Our fans can be the best.”
January 10, 2009; 3:52 PM ET
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