Maryland tests win streak against Virginia Tech
In the closing minutes of Maryland's comeback win at home against Clemson on Wednesday night, many in the sellout crowd began chanting, ``We want Duke!''
Before the Terrapins can turn their attention toward next week's showdown against the fifth-ranked Blue Devils, they first must deal with Virginia Tech on Saturday.
The Hokies are 14-0 at home this season, including 6-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The last time the Terps went up against a team that was unbeaten at home, they were manhandled two weeks ago at Duke.
Maryland (20-7, 10-3) has since won four straight to remain one game behind the first-place Blue Devils in the ACC. After defeating Georgia Tech at home with a buzzer-beating basket by Cliff Tucker, the Terrapins rallied from a 15-point deficit to pin an 88-79 loss on Clemson.
The Tigers led 31-16 with 10 1/2 minutes elapsed and 52-40 early in the second half before Maryland came back.
``You wonder if you can do that. You can say, 'We know how to press. We can come back if we get down a lot against a good team.' But doing it is a different thing,'' coach Gary Williams said. ``We did that, and hopefully that will give us some momentum going into the last three games.
``Our game with Virginia Tech, it's going to be a difficult environment and different game and all those things,'' Williams noted. ``But we've showed a lot of courage all year.''
If Maryland wins, its home game against Duke on Wednesday night could essentially decide the conference championship. When Terps guard Greivis Vasquez decided to return for his senior season instead of attempt to play in the NBA, it was precisely because he wanted to play in these kind of games.
``I came back for a reason: to win this league, win the ACC championship,'' he said. ``It's not going to be easy. It's going to take a team effort, and we have to stay focused. We've got a big game Saturday. Virginia Tech is a great team. They have one of the best players (league scoring leader Malcolm Delaney), maybe the best player in the ACC. So we've got to work hard and get ready for that game.''
Delaney and Vasquez are the only players averaging more than 20 points in ACC play. Vasquez had 15 points and 13 assists against Clemson, and his 3-pointer with 7:24 left put the Terrapins ahead for good.
``The whole game, I had no doubt we were going to win,'' he said. ``I didn't panic.''
To the contrary, Vasquez relished the moment.
``I talked to the team and said, 'This is a good situation. If we go to the NCAA tournament and we're down 12, we can't give up,''' he said.
Vasquez has been an integral part of the Maryland offense the past three years, but recently he's gotten some help. Sean Mosley scored 20 against Clemson and freshman center Jordan Williams had 18.
It was a victory to savor, but only minutes after the final buzzer, the Terps were already thinking about Virginia Tech - even if their fans were looking ahead to Duke.
``I've got a lot of work to do, esepcially since this is the first time we've played (the Hokies),'' Gary Williams said. ``This isn't like Clemson, where we at least played them before.''
First place is still the goal, but a victory would enable Maryland to clinch at least a tie for second. The last time the Terrapins finished as high as second was 2003, the year after they won the national championship.
``I'm very pleased,'' Gary Williams said. ``I think we've worked extremely hard this year to where we could be in second place in our league. There are a lot of good teams. But nothing's clinched yet, nothing's determined, so I don't worry too much about it.''