Lead slips; Terps fall

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK -- Maryland had a chance to knock out reeling Virginia Tech early last night at Comcast Center, quickly building a double-digit lead on a team that had lost three straight games and was coming off a 39-point rout at North Carolina.

The Terps couldn't put the Hokies away, and they paid for it.

Maryland had a 14-point lead in the first half cut to two at halftime, and an 11-point lead early in the second half disappear altogether, as the Hokies pulled out a 69-65 victory that might have put the Terps back on the bubble in terms of the NCAA tournament.

"I thought we had several chances with the lead to put the game out of reach," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Each time, Virginia Tech did a good job coming back. We didn't get it done when we had to. It's very disappointing, but at the same time, we're still in pretty good shape in the league."

It was only the fourth loss in the past 14 games for Maryland (17-10, 7-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), but it was costly. With an opportunity to remain alone in third place in the ACC, the defeat created another logjam below Duke and North Carolina.

The Terps are tied with Clemson, but now are only a half game ahead of Wake Forest and a game ahead of Virginia Tech (15-11, 6-6). Maryland plays Saturday at Miami, which upset Duke last night. The Hurricanes did something the Terps couldn't: hold on to a big lead and win.

Sophomore guard Greivis Vasquez led the Terps with 25 points but made some costly turnovers down the stretch, and aside from senior center Bambale Osby, who finished with 18 points, Vasquez had little offensive support - none from the bench, which went scoreless.

"We got to want it. We didn't want it at the end, not as a team," said Vasquez, who also finished with nine rebounds, six turnovers and five assists. "We made a lot of mistakes. It's tough losing at home like that."

As in last week's loss at Duke, James Gist was held to single digits, finishing with seven points. A.D. Vassallo led Virginia Tech with 19 points and hit a couple of big three-pointers down the stretch, when the Hokies erased a 43-32 deficit.

"We thought we had him covered a couple of times, and he made them," Williams said. "He was 3-for-7 from the three-point line, but the problem was that he made three big ones for them."

Maryland led 28-14 in the first half, and Virginia Tech seemed ready to topple. Hokies coach Seth Greenberg got called for a technical foul and reserve forward Dorenzo Hudson threw up on the court, causing the game to be delayed for nearly 10 minutes as the floor was wiped and mopped.

By then, Maryland had lost its big lead during a seven-minute scoring drought during which Vasquez, Osby and Gist were on the bench with two fouls.

"I thought that game changed from the way it was in the first half," Williams said. "From the incident with the kid throwing up or the technical foul, whatever it was, the game changed."

Said Greenberg: "It's something we needed. We needed to come up here and get this win so we could get things going and get back on track."

Sophomore forward Landon Milbourne thought the Terps paid too much attention to their recent success and Virginia Tech's recent struggles, in particular the Hokies' loss to the Tar Heels, rather than the fact that they beat Maryland in Blacksburg last month, coming back in the last two minutes to win by one.

"I think we might have took them for granted," Milbourne said. "They just beat us by one. I think we came in kind of laid-back instead of coming in fired up like we're supposed to."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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