ATLANTA - There was a sense of desperation last night as Maryland met Georgia Tech with each team struggling to find its way in the rugged Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terps, who hadn't won on an opponent's court this season, had lost three of four, and the Yellow Jackets had lost six of seven games.
Led by Greivis Vasquez, Maryland - which played sloppily but with urgency at the finish - held off Georgia Tech, 57-56, to keep alive its flickering hopes for an NCAA tournament bid.
The Yellow Jackets missed two shots at the end that could have won it. After Lewis Clinch missed a jumper, Georgia Tech got the rebound and Iman Shumpert missed a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Vasquez scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half.
"I thought Greivis down the stretch was a great leader," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "A game like that - on the road - it's going to be tough."
Georgia Tech, a solid rebounding team, hasn't shot above 50 percent in 13 straight games.
Maryland's instruction from its coaches had been simple: Pack inside defensively and try not to give up offensive rebounds to 6-foot-9 Gani Lawal and 6-foot-10 Alade Aminu.
Before leaving for Atlanta, coaches had written "Defensive REB" on an erasable board in the Terps' film room along with these keys to victory: "Half-court defense on Lawal" and "Play Hard!" Maryland (15-8, 4-5 ACC) did its best to follow the instructions.
The Terps packed the lane and often batted away passes intended for Lawal and Aminu inside. Lawal finished with eight points and 14 rebounds. Aminu had seven points and five boards.
"Our thing was to double-team them off the catch," said Maryland forward Dave Neal, who scored five points. "Just the fact that we came in here and stayed composed and played hard and played great defense is awesome."
Georgia Tech (10-12, 1-8), which trailed by 10 in the first half, took a 41-39 lead in the second half on a follow-up slam by Lawal.
But Vasquez wouldn't let the Yellow Jackets' lead stand for long. If the Terps seemed eager for their first road win - and they did - then Vasquez was most eager of all.
He scored in bunches.
With the Terps trailing 43-39, Vasquez scored the next six Maryland points, giving the Terps a 45-43 lead.
The Yellow Jackets trailed 55-54 when Vasquez was fouled and made both ends of a one-and-one.
Vasquez jumped into Williams' arms when Georgia Tech missed its final two shots to seal Maryland's win. Neal stomped his foot on the floor in celebration.
The Terps were aided last night by Eric Hayes, the junior guard who had not started the previous two games. He got the start last night in place of Adrian Bowie, who had the flu accompanied by a 102-degree fever, and scored 15 points.
"I expected that completely," Williams said of Hayes' performance. "Eric doesn't get the credit sometimes because his personality isn't jumping around. Tonight, Eric was the guy - he really played well."
VIRGINIA TECH (15-7, 5-3) @MARYLAND (15-8, 4-5)
Saturday, 4 p.m.
TV: Chs. 54, 5
Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM
play it again
Keys to the game
Maryland kept Georgia Tech's big front line from dominating inside. Greivis Vasquez played one of his best halves of the season in the second.
Did you notice ...
* Sean Mosley and Eric Hayes each missed the front end of one-and-ones in the final minute that could have cost the Terps.
* Cliff Tucker, who had been little-used until recently, was back in the rotation, scoring eight points in 17 minutes.
* Georgia Tech and Maryland often looked to run. These are teams that know they don't shoot well in the half-court offense.
* Alexander Memorial Coliseum was occasionally quiet enough - and empty enough - that the squeaking of players' sneakers could be heard halfway up the stands.
Left to ponder
Can the Terps find success against some
of the better teams in the conference?