An extra day will do Terps some good
When first broached with the question -- Given Maryland's recent stretch of tightly contested games, did fatigue (mental, physical or both) play a role in the Terrapins' dry stretch during the second half Saturday at Virginia? -- senior guard Greivis Vasquez was somewhat dismissive of the notion.
"We won the game," Vasquez said. "We won the game. We won the game. Ask me a question about winning the game. We won the game. It's been exhausting, of course, but we won the game. We did what we needed to do to win the game."
Indeed, Maryland did win the game, 74-68, and will possess the No. 2 seed at next week's ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Due to their high seeding, the Terrapins will receive a first round bye and, thus, will not play until Friday at 7 p.m. They will face the winner of the 7-10 matchup between Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
The extra time to recover, rest and prepare should do Maryland some good, because even though Vasquez did not want to admit it initially, Coach Gary Williams said he felt his team had been a little worn down mentally by its recent slate of games.
"I think we were probably mentally tired," Williams said. "I don’t think we were physically tired. You look at our last six games and how they went. It’s as crazy a six-game stretch as I’ve ever been in. You have to deal with it. We probably could have used playing Sunday. We could have given them Thursday off; that type of thing after the Duke game, but it wasn’t that way so we show up today and play. That’s why I’m proud of the guys. It was a very difficult situation to be in for us today to play. To Virginia’s credit, they did everything they could to win the game."
Let's take a look back at the six games leading up to Maryland's regular season finale Saturday in Charlottesville:
- It began with a 19-point win over Virginia at Comcast Center on Feb. 15. The game wasn't all that difficult for the Terrapins, but the conditions under which it was played was unique to say the least. The game was supposed to have taken place five days earlier, but a severe snowstorm in the DC region postponed it. And because it was postponed, Maryland had to face the Cavaliers two days after suffering a 21-point loss at Duke.
- Next up, the Terrapins traveled to N.C. State on Feb. 17, where they third game in five days. Maryland came back from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the Wolfpack.
- On Feb. 20, the Terrapins took on Georgia Tech at home and ended up winning the game on a buzzer-beating three-pointer from reserve guard Cliff Tucker. It was Maryland's fourth contest in eight days.
- Maryland trailed by as many as 15 points on Feb. 24 against Clemson, but stormed back in the second half to defeat the Tigers by nine.
- On Feb. 27, the Terrapins traveled to Blacksburg, Va. for what they thought would be a 4 p.m. game. Then a catering truck ran into a fire hydrant and a certain extent of chaos ensued at Cassell Coliseum. Would the game be delayed? Would fans be allowed into the arena? Would the game be played that day at all? In the end, tip-off was pushed back three hours, fans were allowed to watch (but they had to go elsewhere on campus to use the restroom) and, of course, the game went into double-overtime before Maryland pulled away with the victory.
- Senior night was something to behold, as well. In front of a raucous crowd, Maryland and Duke battled in a back-and-forth contest that ended with the Terrapins pulling away and their fans storming the court. The win pulled Maryland into a tie with Duke atop the ACC standings.
And that brings us to Saturday's game at Virginia. The Terrapins jumped out to a 14-point lead in the first half before the Cavaliers steadily climbed back into contention after the intermission. Maryland shot 37.5 percent from the field in the second half after shooting 45.2 percent before the break. Virginia, meantime, shot 65.2 percent from the field in the second half while making a more concerted effort to take the ball inside rather than settle mostly for outside jumpers.
"We just got a little tired," Vasquez said when asked a second time about Maryland's second-half performance. "It’s been a lot of things going on, a lot of emotions going on. I mean, we just beat Duke, we beat Georgia Tech the way we beat Georgia Tech, so it’s been hard, man. This is not easy. We knew (the Cavaliers) were going to be so tough to beat, man. We knew that."
But, as Vasquez repeatedly had pointed out earlier, the Terrapins did come away with the victory, their first at Virginia since 2006. Now, Maryland will have a few days to recharge a bit after an emotionally draining stretch of games before taking the court Friday night.
What the past seven games have demonstrated as much as anything else is the variety of ways in which this Maryland squad is capable of winning. The Terrapins have beaten opponents soundly, they have maintained close leads, they have battled back and forth, they have fought back from considerable deficits and they have endured when 40 minutes of regulation was not enough to settle matters.
Those are quality experiences for a squad to have under its belt, and there are not many questions this team has yet to answer about its identity or its ability. Entering the postseason, that would appear to be a good sign.
March 7, 2010; 9:07 AM ET
Categories: Men's basketball
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