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Terps top Wolfpack behind Vasquez's 33

March 01, 2009|By Aaron Beard

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Greivis Vasquez spent the game picking apart North Carolina State's defense, then reveled in Maryland's latest win in particularly aggravating fashion for the Wolfpack and its fans.

Vasquez scored 21 of his 33 points in the second half to help the Terrapins beat N.C. State 71-60 on Sunday night, giving them their latest momentum-building win in their late-season push for an NCAA tournament bid.

Dave Neal added 11 points for the Terps (18-10, 7-7 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won four of six games and led most of the way in this one. Still, Maryland needed a late push to take the lead for good with about 7 1/2 minutes left, a surge that began as everything did on this night -- with Vasquez.

He bounced back from a disappointing performance in Wednesday's loss to Duke, going 13-for-23 from the field with five assists in 38 minutes. He put the Terps ahead to stay with a 3-pointer, and added a basket in the final minute that helped Maryland earn its fourth straight win against N.C. State (15-12, 5-9).

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"I'm trying to take my game to a different level," Vasquez said. "I'm just trying to lead these guys to something special. I think we have a tough team that can make it to the NCAAs."

The only blemish on this day was how the 6-foot-6 junior handled all that success. Vasquez started jawing with and taunting Wolfpack fans in the final seconds. Then, with Maryland holding an eight-point lead and ready to dribble out the clock, Vasquez brought the ball upcourt and buried a 3-pointer at the horn just to needle them even further.

The home crowd booed loudly, including when he gave a postgame TV interview at midcourt before running to the locker room.

"I shouldn't have never shot it, and I apologize for that," he said. "I was into the game and I made it. That's kind of disrespectful to the fans. ... They have a great team and great fans, so I know they're going to be mad at me because we won. If I would have hit that shot and they were winning, nothing would have happened.

"I remember when I used to watch (Duke's) J.J. Redick. Everybody used to hate him, but he got it done. As long as I play well and get my team wins, I'll be happy about it. I don't care about who hates me or anything like that."

N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe didn't seem too irked by the shot, saying "You play to the buzzer." But Wolfpack point guard Javi Gonzalez had a different opinion when asked whether it bothered him.

"I mean, it did a little bit," Gonzalez said. "But I couldn't go over there and punch him in the face. That's pretty disrespectful to me. Where I'm from, you don't do that. ... He shot and made it, whatever. They won anyway, so it didn't really matter. I guess he was trying to pad his stats."

Vasquez isn't having a hard time doing that these days. It was his second 30-point outing in three games, joining his 35-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist performance in last weekend's overtime upset of North Carolina. Vasquez had just 10 points and was limited by foul trouble in the 78-67 loss to the Blue Devils.

Making this more impressive was that much of his production came against Courtney Fells, an athletic senior who had been the Wolfpack's top perimeter defender.

"He's cocky," Lowe said. "And you know what? I like players like that. I like players who have a lot of confidence in their game and themselves and won't be denied."

Maryland shot 48 percent for the game, including 10-for-21 from 3-point range, while committing just eight turnovers. N.C. State shot 50 percent, but committed 16 turnovers -- several unforced -- as the Terrapins kept the home team off balance with fullcourt pressure and zone defense.

Maryland led by nine in the first half but took only a 34-33 lead into the break. N.C. State didn't lead until Tracy Smith scored in the paint in traffic and drew the foul for a three-point play that gave the Wolfpack a 49-47 lead with 9:15 left.

But Vasquez -- who had scored nine straight points for Maryland a few minutes earlier -- hit the go-ahead 3 over Fells to make it 55-52 with 7:26 left. A few minutes later, Neal hit his third 3-pointer of the game and Vasquez found Dino Gregory inside to push the lead to 60-53 with 3:54 to go.

The Wolfpack twice got as close as four, the last time coming on Gonzalez's layup near the 1-minute mark. But Vasquez answered, splitting a double-team near the 3-point arc and draining a shot over Smith that made it 66-60 with 26 seconds left.

"That's what we need from a player like Greivis," Neal said. "He's our go-to guy. He took over personally in those last seven minutes."

Smith scored 19 points to lead the Wolfpack.

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