When Maryland stunned North Carolina 88-85 last February in College Park, I’ll freely admit-I gushed.
After wiping the tears out of my eyes and regaining my composure as an analyst and NOT just a fan, I couldn’t type the words fast enough.
“This was Greivis Vasquez’s Mona Lisa. His masterpiece.”
And as Drew Forrester often quips on “The Comcast Morning Show” on AM1570 WNST, Greivis Vasquez is MUCH better than many Maryland fans give him credit for.
But Maryland’s 83-77 loss to William & Mary at Comcast Center Wednesday night was a very unfortunate reminder that Greivis is not a player who has etched his place in Terrapins lore, but instead still a player who is trying to find his way even during his senior campaign.
Let me first note that Greivis Vasquez was NOT the reason the Terps fell to the Tribe. In fact, he finished with 26 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds-the type of effort only a player with great ability can put together. This Maryland team was ultimately done in by an awful night from beyond the arc (4/25), a bench that offered little help (4 points), and a William & Mary team that seized control of the game midway through the 2nd half and took advantage of every opportunity thereafter (including a 25-31 performance at the free throw line.)
Good ACC teams have faced similar opposition from tough opponents in the past. Gary Williams coached teams have faced similar opposition from tough opponents in the past. Many of those teams have overcome those odds thanks to the will and determination of a superstar player-one who answered the bell at the exact moment his team needed it. Greivis Vasquez had that opportunity Wednesday.
Maryland trailed 52-40 with 13:24 to play, but they used stingy defense to cut William & Mary’s lead to 56-49 with just over 10 minutes to play. Vasquez stepped up to block a short layup, which sent the Terrapins into transition with an opportunity to cut the Tribe lead down to 5-or even 4-and send an already energized Comcast Center crowd into an absolute frenzy. The ball came back to Maryland’s senior guard from Venezuela, and he did what any great player would want to do in that situation……he tried to lift an entire team with one shot.
The funny thing is-it looked like he had done just that.
Vasquez pulled up for thee in transition with 10:03 to play in the game, and he sent up a shot that appeared to have a perfect trajectory-but it met the rim instead of the net. William & Mary brought down the rebound; and got a 2nd chance hoop on the other end of the floor to stop Maryland’s momentum. The Tribe would extend their lead back to double figures before the Terps would score again. As quickly as the Terps appeared to have taken back the pace and flow of the game-they gave it right back to their CAA opponent, and it was never relinquished.
Immediately after Vasquez hoisted his shot, I thought to myself “that was a big moment.” If you follow WNST on Twitter, you’d know I was concerned because I IMMEDIATELY described the moment as a “big swing.” Obviously, it was.
My immediate reaction was-“I wonder if a transition 3-ball was what Gary Williams wanted in that situation?” After the game, I asked him. His response showed me a different way of thinking….
“Greivis has won a lot of games for us pulling up for threes. He didn’t make that one. Sure, he missed it, so I wish he would have driven the ball. But if he would have driven the ball and gotten his shot blocked, I’d wished he would have taken the three. It’s the way it works. I want Greivis to keep playing like he’s playing. He’s working hard, he’s trying to help us win. As long as he does that-I’ve had a lot of great players here that take shots once in a while that take shots that you might not like as a coach but that’s part of what makes them great. They have that aggressiveness, they have that no fear of being out there playing which you try to put into a lot of players, but not everybody has that.”
You see, it wasn’t the decision that was the problem. It was the outcome.
Great players-in the biggest situations-deliver. The mistake wasn’t that Greivis took things in his own hands and tried to carry his team-the mistake was that he didn’t make the shot fall when his team needed him most.
Greivis has shown us that at times, he can be that player. His performance against the Tar Heels 10 almost 11 months ago was the most shining example of that.
But at times, Greivis has shown us that he’s not quite ready to be that guy. Missing a transition 3 against William & Mary was an unfortunate example of that.
Greivis will have plenty more chances to finalize his legacy at the University of Maryland. Despite what some will say, a loss to William & Mary does NOT doom them to a return trip to the NIT Tournament. But it DOES make the road to a 2nd straight NCAA Tournament appearance a bit longer.
And there’s one player who has the ability to carry them down that road. He just has to deliver in similar situations going forward. Doing so might be enough to carry this team in a run through March Madness AND enough to immortalize Greivis next to Steve Blake, Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon in the Comcast Center rafters. Three players who had a knack to deliver at the biggest of moments.
From everything we know about Greivis, he’ll want to be the guy in that position in every game the rest of the way. Following the loss, he freely recognized he needed to be the “leader” for this team, and a need to show some “responsibility.”
There’s no greater responsibility that being THE GUY-which is exactly what he is capable of being, whether the opponent is William & Mary, UNC-Greensboro, Florida State, or Duke.
It might have to come against all of them.