Terps outlast Eastern Kentucky behind outstanding effort from Vasquez

December 12, 2009 | Luke Jones

When the news surfaced that Greivis Vasquez would not start against Eastern Kentucky after being late to the Saturday morning shootaround, it appeared to be the exclamation point on a terrible start to the season for the Terps’ emotional leader.

Instead, it was the catalyst for the senior guard’s finest performance of the season in Maryland’s 83-72 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday night.

After sitting out the first 5:46 of the game, Vasquez scored 20 points, dished out five assists, and grabbed five rebounds while showing a more positive demeanor to lead the Terps to victory. Maryland struggled for much of the night as Eastern Kentucky provided matchup problems for the Terps defense and played to a 60-60 tie with under eight minutes to go. Vasquez led the Terps with 13 second-half points, including two 3-pointers.

“I think he came out with the mindset that I’m going to have fun and hit some open shots,” said Sean Mosley, who added 13 points and six rebounds in the victory for the Terps.

Maryland got off to a blazing 24-8 start, but allowed the Colonels to climb back into the game when they went on a 15-3 run. Gary Williams credited the different looks that coach Jeff Neubauer gave to the Maryland defense. Eastern Kentucky shot 47.8 percent from 3-point range to remain within reach of the Terps.

“They [Eastern Kentucky] were great, so I give them a lot of credit,” Williams said. “I like the way our team hung in there. They were very confident. Eastern Kentucky had the confidence going in the second half and we had to stay tough, and we did.”

With Maryland seemingly in danger against a mid-major team, Vasquez led the way, playing under control and displaying brilliance in the process. Perhaps getting stuck in traffic this morning and the mandated six-minute respite that followed was exactly what the senior leader needed to clear his mind in a very difficult start to the season.

“This was a great game for me,” Vasquez said. “Just to sit on the bench and see everything from the outside in, look at myself and get back to what I am—I’m the crazy guy that plays at Maryland that’s trying to make plays that sometimes people don’t believe in. I’m going to be myself from now on.”

Vasquez’s benching and subsequent performance overshadowed the much-anticipated return of junior forward Dino Gregory after serving an eight-game suspension for violating team rules. Gregory supplanted Jordan Williams in the lineup and scored eight points.

Gary Williams has been adamant about the importance of the return of Gregory to the Maryland frontcourt and stood by his position after the game.

“We have guys that will score, but we need guys that will stop people. Dino is one of those people.”

Maryland’s freshmen duo felt the biggest effect of Gregory’s return to the starting lineup as Jordan Williams played only nine minutes while fellow freshman James Padgett did not play in the game. Gary Williams pointed to matchup problems as the primary reason and emphasized how important it will be to have frontcourt depth in conference play.

It will be interesting to see how Gary Williams handles the rotation as the team approaches conference play. While Gregory does provide energy inside, it’s hard to overlook the improvement of Jordan Williams over the first nine games of the season.

Maryland will now receive the next nine days off as players complete final exams for the fall semester. The Terps will resume their schedule when they host Winston-Salem State on Dec. 22.

***Don’t forget to sign up for the WNST Bus Trip to join Glenn Clark to watch the Terps take on Winston-Salem State on Tuesday, December 22. Check out the Trips section at WNST.net to sign up today!***

- Adrian Bowie, starting in place of Vasquez, and Gregory, returning from an eight-game suspension, started for the first time this season. Gregory, making his first career start, matched a career-high with eight points and went 4-of-4 from the free throw line.

“Whether [Gregory] was getting rebounds or hustle plays, he just knows where to set the right schemes at the right time,” Mosley said. “Dino is a veteran player and he did a really good job in playing and helping the team out today.”

- Landon Milbourne, Eric Hayes, and Mosley scored 19, 16, and 13 points, respectively. Mosley and Hayes lead the team with eight double-digit scoring performances while Milbourne has seven.

- Maryland did not commit its first turnover until the 6:13 mark of the first half. The Terps commited only one in the first half, giving them a 15-0 edge in points off turnovers at the intermission.

- Hayes moved past Walt Williams into seventh place on Maryland’s career list for 3-point field goals with 156. Vasquez is sixth with 172 while Drew Nicholas is in fifth place with 176 career triples.

- Maryland went 18-for-22 from the charity stripe against EKU, its highest free-throw percentage of the season.

- The Terps are now 6-0 when leading at halftime. The Terps led 40-32 at the break against Eastern Kentucky.

Check out the box score here and the live blog below.

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6:30 p.m. — EKU does not foul in the final 30 seconds, and we’ve reached the end of this one.

Maryland defeats Eastern Kentucky, 83-72. Back with the post-game wrap in a little bit.

6:29 p.m. — Vasquez is fouled and goes to the line for two. He hits them both, pushing the advantage back up to 11 points.

The senior guard now has 20 points on the night, playing a fantastic second half of basketball.

6:27 p.m. — Stommes scores to cut it to nine, but only 52.3 seconds remain as the Comcast faithful begin making their way to the exits.

6:26 p.m. — Bowie finds Mosley inside off the cut, and he scores. Maryland leads 81-70 with 1:20 remaining.

Not a very impressive effort, but a win is a win I suppose.

6:25 p.m. — Hayes hits a pair of free throws, and the lead is back up to 79-70 with 2:30 remaining.

6:23 p.m. — Milbourne misses the inside shot, but Mosley is there to grab the board, and the Baltimore native is fouled. Oppong has fouled out for EKU.

Mosley goes to the line for two. He misses them both.

The Terps are going with a small defensive lineup with Gregory being the only big man on the floor. Milbourne has four fouls, so Williams is trying to protect his starting four-man.

6:22 p.m. — Hayes takes a long, ill-advised three with plenty of time left on the shot clock, but Milbourne grabs the offensive board and is fouled.

Milboure drills both freebies, and the lead is seven.

6:21 p.m. – Maryland is an impressive 12-for-14 from the free throw line tonight. Free throws figure to play a factor in this one in the final four minutes of a five-point game.

6:19 p.m. — We’ve reached the final media timeout with 3:57 remaining. Maryland leads Eastern Kentucky, 75-68.

6:18 p.m. — Eastern Kentucky has five players with double-digit points. Oppong leads the way for the Colonels with 15 points.

Vasquez leads the Terps with 18 points.

Hayes hits a big three-pointer, extending the lead to seven points. Maryland takes a 30-second timeout with 4:08 remaining.

6:16 p.m. — Vasquez with another BEAUTIFUL look inside, but Mosley blows the layup.

However, after an EKU miss, Mosley redeems himself when the two connect again, this time for two points.

6:14 p.m. — Mosley with the score inside and the foul. Nice fake by the sophomore to draw the contact, but he cannot hit the freebie.

Oppong scores again for the Colonels, and it’s back to a four-point game.

6:12 p.m. — Stommes misses the front-end of the 1-and-1 but Oppong gets the offensive rebound and scores.

However, Vasquez with ANOTHER three-ball inside, growing the lead to six points. This is the best half of basketball Vasquez has played in quite some time. He now has 18 points for the game.

6:11 p.m. — Milbourne with the cross-court pass to Vasquez who drills the three, and Maryland is now up by five with 6:38 remaining. That shot will definitely help the senior’s confidence.

6:10 p.m. — Mosley hits a big jumper in the paint, giving the Terps the lead.

It’s been a quiet day for the sophomore, but that was as big of a shot as any tonight for the Terps.

6:07 p.m. — EKU throws it away, and we’ve reached a media timeout with 7:52 remaining. We’re tied at 60.

I said before the game that this was basically a no-win situation game for the Terps as far as disproving their doubters. With the game tied late in the second half, people will continue to doubt this team.

6:05 p.m. — Mosley just picked up his third foul, and it’s the team’s seventh, putting EKU in the bonus. Joshua Jones makes them both and we’re tied at 60 with 8:23 remaining.

Ugh.

6:03 p.m. — Milbourne ERASES the shot, and the Terps are going the other way. Hayes drives and cannot convert.

Taylor hits the three-ball for the Colonels, and it’s a two-point game.

6:02 p.m. — Hayes misses the shot, but Milbourne fights for the rebound, scores, and is fouled. Huge play by the senior in a close game. He connects on the free throw to complete the three-point play.

6:00 p.m. — Vasquez misses the three, but Oppong is whistled for the foul going for the rebound, and Maryland keeps the ball.

Gregory goes up for the dunk, but is STUFFED!

5:59 p.m. — Jin Soo Choi is now in the game for the Terps. It’s surprising to see him in there instead of Padgett.

Stommes hits a three and the Terps immediately turn it over, leading to a layup for Perrin. 57-55 Terps, and Gary Williams wants a timeout.

5:56 p.m. — Maryland continues to play man-to-man after showing so much zone over the last four games. Not surprising considering the competition, but Gary Williams cannot be happy with his team’s three-point defense.

Vasquez just delivered a BEAUTIFUL no-look pass inside to Williams for the layup. Very impressive.

We’ve reached a media timeout with 11:07 remaining in the second half. Maryland continues to lead Eastern Kentucky, 57-50.

5:54 p.m. — Vasquez with a great drive inside and finishes with the right hand, building the lead back to seven points with 13:00 remaining. The senior now has 12 points after coming off the bench in the first half.

Josh Daniel scores on the other end for Eastern Kentucky.

5:52 p.m. — Jones hits a three for the Colonels, cutting the lead back down to five. Mosley misses the jumper on the other end for the Terps.

While EKU is certainly shooting the ball well, the Terps defense is just a half step slow getting out to the shooter.

Gregory has just picked up his third ball and will go to the bench with 14:01 remaining.

5:49 p.m. — Another turnover as Gregory cannot handle the pass from Hayes.

After an EKU turnover, Vasquez takes it inside, gets the bucket and the foul. Vasquez has looked much more under control with his inside drives tonight.

5:47 p.m. — Great defense by Mosley, but the Terps turn it over. After only committing one turnover in the first half, Maryland has already committed three in the second by my count.

5:46 p.m. — Taylor finds a cutting Perrin for the inside basket, and it’s a two-point game.

However, Hayes hits a triple on the other end. We’ve seen him be a steadying influence on this team over and over this season, and that was a big one.

5:44 p.m. — Maryland shows the press, but EKU beats it, leaving a wide-open Papa Oppong for a trey, and it’s good.

Who’s your Papa? (Okay, I promise I won’t say that again.)

The Terps take a timeout, as the lead is down to four points.

5:43 p.m. — Vasquez attempts to drive inside but has his shot blocked.

On the other end, Perrin gets the alley-oop, earning the “ohhhs” from the crowd.

5:41 p.m. — Taylor hits the three-ball for EKU, and the Colonels quickly take a timeout.

Maryland leads, 47-38, as we’ve seen 13 points scored in the first 1:48 of the second half.

5:39 p.m. — Milbourne hits the long jumper to start the half.

Maryland is off to a 7-3 run in the second half.

5:35 p.m. — We’re ready for the start of the second half, and it appears Vasquez will start the half after sitting out the first six minutes of tonight’s game after arriving late to the morning shootaround.

5:33 p.m. — The Terps held a substantial rebounding advantage early in the half, but the Colonels closed the gap over the last 10 minutes. Maryland leads in rebounding, 16-14.

5:30 p.m. — James Padgett appears to be the one to feel the biggest effect of Gregory’s return, as the freshman did not play in the first half. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise as Padgett has often looked lost in the half-court offense.

However, I would still expect him to be a regular contributor, especially when the Terps face bigger teams on the schedule.

5:23 p.m. — Check out the first half stats right here.

5:20 p.m. — In the final minute, Vasquez has come to life, hitting the short jumper in the paint.

We’ve reached halftime with Maryland leading Eastern Kentucky, 40-32.

5:19 p.m. — Vasquez drives inside, scores and is fouled! That’s a big one for the Terps and for the senior’s confidence. He hits the free throw, and the Terps are back up by six points with 46.9 seconds to go.

5:18 p.m. — Oppong scores inside, and the lead is down to one.

However, Hayes goes glass on the jump shot on the other end.

After a fast start, the mood of this game changed dramatically in the last 10 minutes of the half.

5:14 p.m. — Bowie goes to the line, missing the first but connecting on the second. Maryland goes into the full-court press, trying to turn up the heat on the Colonels and they force the turnover.

Maryland using a four-guard lineup right now with Mosley sliding down to the 4 spot and Gregory playing the 5.

Vasquez hits the shot, growing the lead to five.

5:12 p.m. — Mosley hits a cutting Bowie inside, and the guard draws the foul, earning a trip to the stripe.

We’ve reached our last media timeout of the half with Maryland leading EKU, 30-28, with 3:54 remaining.

5:11 p.m. — Dino Gregory showing a very smooth stroke from the line, hitting two more, with both shots barely even touching the net on the way in.

Stommes hits another three-pointer, as the Terps continue to struggle in guarding the long-ball.

5:08 p.m. — Gregory gets to the free throw line and sinks them both.

Bowie returns to the game, and Vasquez takes a seat on the bench. He’s still scoreless.

5:07 p.m. — Vasquez misses the three, drawing some groans from the crowd, and on the other end, Mike Lewis scores for the Colonels, and it’s a three-point game.

5:05 p.m. — We’ve reached the under-8 timeout. Maryland leads Eastern Kentucky, 26-21.

After complimenting the Terps on their strong start not too long ago, the Terps have been outscored, 13-3, in the last four and a half minutes.

5:03 p.m. — Justin Stommes hits a three, cutting the lead to five points.

Is that Villanova out there? The Colonels have started raining threes in the last four minutes of the game. They now have five in the half.

5:01 p.m. — Papa Oppong just beat Mosley off the dribble, leading to a layup for Spencer Perrin. Very rare to see Mosley beaten on the defensive end like that.

4:59 p.m. — Taylor hits another three for the Colonels, cutting the deficit to 24-14.

Bowie bricks a three-pointer on the other end, and Eastern Kentucky scores inside, shaving the lead to eight points.

Eastern Kentucky is on an 8-0 run, and Gary Williams wants a timeout.

4:58 p.m. — Jordan Williams fouls Josh Taylor on a three-point attempt, and it’s good. Major mistake by the freshman committing the foul on the perimeter.

On the other end, Vasquez is way off on his three-point attempt.

4:56 p.m. — Milbourne completes the three-point play and goes to the bench with Gregory returning in his place.

It’s very nice seeing the Terps come out with a lot of energy. After a rough stretch and coming home to play a low-profile school, it would have been easy to envision the Terps coming out flat, but it hasn’t been the case.

4:54 p.m. — Milbourne is hammered inside as he throws up the shot. . .COUNT IT AND THE FOUL!

Wow!

4:53 p.m. — He’s heating up. Hayes nails another one.

Jones travels on the other end, giving it back to the Terrapins.

Nice trip down the floor as the Terps grab a few offensive boards before Williams puts it in the basket. 21-8, Maryland.

4:50 p.m. — Hayes connects on the trey after missing a couple early attempts. Maryland leads Eastern Kentucky, 16-5.

However, Joshua Jones connects on his own triple on the next possession and the Colonels call a 30-second timeout.

4:49 p.m. — We’ve had our first Vasquez appearance with the senior guard entering the game at the 14:14 mark of the first half.

Jordan Williams has also checked in to replace Gregory, earning a big ovation.

4:47 p.m. — Maryland has done a nice job on the glass so far, leading the Colonels in that category, 6-2.

4:45 p.m. — Maryland comes out in the 2-1-2 full-court press as Mosley gets the steal and slam! The sophomore continues to show outstanding defense and is clearly the best defender on the team.

4:44 p.m. — We’ve reached the first media timeout. Terps lead, 11-5.

Still no Vasquez at the 15:43 mark.

4:42 p.m. — Hayes misses a three but Bowie runs down the long rebound and finds Milbourne inside for two. Great hustle play by Bowie who has really struggled this season.

Justin Stommes hits a three for EKU, but Mosley answers with one of his own for the Terps.

4:40 p.m. — The Terps have started out playing man-to-man. You would figure to see a lot of man tonight.

Gregory hits a long jumpshot, making it 4-0, Terps.

4:39 p.m. — Hayes with the steal on EKU’s first possession, creating a fast-break layup for Adrian Bowie.

Quick, aggressive start for the Terps.

4:37 p.m. — Gregory lines up for the opening tip, replacing Milbourne in that role.

4:36 p.m. — It will be interesting to see how Maryland responds having two new starters in the lineup this evening. While Vasquez will play tonight, Gregory is making his season debut.

4:26 p.m. — I’m not sure I agree with the decision to start Dino Gregory in his return from the suspension. Considering how Jordan Williams has improved and Gregory was not a starter last season, I would be inclined to stick with the freshman in the starting lineup.

Gary Williams has talked several times about the energy that Gregory brings, and I think this could be a valuable asset to have coming off the bench.

Then again, I don’t have a national championship or 600 wins in my career, so what do I know?

4:21 p.m. — Here are tonight’s starters:

EKU
G Papa Oppong
G Dayvon Ellis
F Josh Taylor
F Justin Stommes
F Spencer Perrin

Maryland
G Eric Hayes
G Adrian Bowie (in place of Vasquez)
G Sean Mosley
F Landon Milbourne
F Dino Gregory

4:17 p.m. — I’ve just received word that Greivis Vasquez will not start but is expected to play in tonight’s game. The senior guard was late for the morning shootaround.

While it doesn’t figure to have any profound effect against a less-than-impressive opponent, it will certainly do nothing to silence his critics after a very difficult start to the season.

4:05 p.m. — This evening’s game will be televised on Comcast SportsNet with Chick Hernandez and Christy Winters Scott providing the call.

Stay right here at WNST.net throughout the evening and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST).

4:00 p.m. — Good afternoon from Comcast Center where the Terps are set to take on Eastern Kentucky. Maryland (5-3) returns home for the first time since Nov. 20 when it defeated New Hampshire, 82-55.

Since then, the Terps have lost three of their last five games, including losses to Cincinnati and Wisconsin in Maui and their most recent defeat to Villanova in the BB&T Classic on Sunday night. The disappointing stretch leaves little margin for error over the next five games before the ACC opener against Florida State on Jan. 10. A home loss to a mid-major school would be very damaging to the Terps’ tournament resume, but William & Mary would appear to be the only real threat to Maryland.

The main storyline of today’s game figures to be the return of Dino Gregory from suspension due to a team rules violation. The 6-foot-7 junior instantly figures to become a part of the rotation in the frontcourt, joining Landon Milbourne, Jordan Williams, and James Padgett.

While Gregory averaged only 2.6 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, coach Gary Williams has pointed to his hustle and play down the stretch last season as a major contributing factor in the Terps’ push to make the NCAA tournament. Make no mistake, Gregory does not transform the Maryland frontcourt from a weakness into a strength, but he can be another solid contributor to improve the effort in the paint.

Eastern Kentucky (7-2) comes from the Ohio Valley Conference and is 7-2 or better for only the second time in the last 45 years. It’s the second meeting between the schools with Maryland winning back in 1973, 106-57. EKU is 11-27 all-time against current ACC schools.

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