Tucker’s buzzer-beater saves Maryland against Georgia Tech, 76-74

February 20, 2010 | Luke Jones

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It almost seemed like a cruel joke.

Greivis Vasquez had just banked in a prayer from just over half-court to seemingly give Maryland a miraculous win over Georgia Tech, only to learn it didn’t count after assistant coach Keith Booth had called a timeout prior to the heave with 1.5 seconds to play.

The Terps appeared on the verge of suffering their first ACC home loss of the season before breaking the huddle for the final possession and down one point. But instead of dwelling on the frustration of the missed opportunity, Maryland focused on the precious 1.5 seconds with which it had to work.

“[The huddle] was real calm,” Cliff Tucker said. “[Gary Williams] calmed down and just drew up the play, and then we went out and ran it.”

With everyone expecting Vasquez to take the final shot, the reserve Tucker instead took the inbound pass—on a play typically designed to be a lob near the basket—and hit a 3-pointer as time expired to give Maryland a 76-74 victory and send 17,950 Comcast Center fans home in a frenzy.

Despite the bedlam, it was the same play the Terps had run in practice everyday throughout the season.

“You don’t go into those situations without having practiced them,” said Williams, noting his team spends the last 15 minutes of practice on game scenarios. “At least when we had the ball in that situation, we had done that before in practice and there was a positive image there. We got lucky there at the end, but we excecuted that play pretty well.”

The win not only protected Maryland’s perfect home record in conference play but clinched a winning conference record, moving the Terps closer to the possibility of a first-round bye in the ACC tournament.

Saturday’s battle was uncommon territory for the Terps who had nearly rolled over everyone in conference play at the Comcast Center, their previous five wins coming by an average margin of 19 points.

Playing its fourth game in eight days, Maryland (19-7, 9-3) struggled against the imposing Georgia Tech frontcourt all afternoon, as the Yellow Jackets grabbed 21 offensive rebounds and scored 24 second-chance points, none bigger than Derrick Favors tip-in with three seconds left. Even before that, the freshman sensation proved to be as good as advertised, scoring 21 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.

Vasquez led the Terps with 18 points and eight assists despite both he and his coach admitting he was fatigued from the last week. On Tucker’s game-winning shot, Vasquez set a screen to create space for his teammate’s heroics.

“This is every game, our season,” Vasquez said. “Every win we got, we got it as a team. This is nothing about me; our team has done a great job being positive. Praise Cliff. He made the big shot for us and won the game.”

While the win shouldn’t be overemphasized with four conference games remaining and more work to accomplish, it does add another modest feather to the NCAA tournament cap by beating a team that’s spent plenty of time ranked in the top-25 this season. However, Maryland’s real chance to impress the selection committee will come over the next three games.

The Terps will host Clemson on Wednesday night and try to avenge a disappointing loss in their first meeting before traveling to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech next Saturday. And, of course, the rematch with Duke looms for Senior Night on March 3.

These next three games will tell us where Maryland fits into the NCAA tournament picture and its prospects for a strong showing.

But before we move on to the rest of the season and see where it takes Maryland, it’s hard to imagine any one moment topping Tucker and his teammates running around the Comcast floor in the aftermath of the improbable shot on Saturday afternoon.

“In AAU, I hit a little floater for a game-winner, but nothing like this; nothing to this capacity,” said Tucker. “It’s probably one of the best plays of my career, of my life, so I’m happy.”

- By scoring five of Maryland’s first seven points of the game, Vasquez eclipsed the 2,000-point mark in his career, becoming the sixth player in school history to do so. Vasquez also became the first player in ACC history to reach 2,000 points, 700 assists, and 600 rebounds in his career.

“I think it speaks for itself,” Williams said. “Greivis had his critics, but the numbers are there and when you look at what he has done for the team this year, he has always done everything he could.”

- Seemingly frustrated with his team’s struggles on the defensive end, Williams shed his jacket and tossed it away in anger with 5:00 remaining in the game. The move is often imitated—even at Midnight Madness—but the coach described how rare it is for him to resort to such tactics.

“I just try to stay on every play. I’ve [only] done that four times in 21 years. After I did that, I felt pretty good.”

- Maryland won its ninth straight game over Georgia Tech, a streak that goes back to Jan. 30, 2005. The Terps’ six straight ACC home wins are the most since a 12-game streak from the beginning of the 2001-02 campaign through the first four of 2002-03.

- Freshman Jordan Williams narrowly missed his third straight double-double, finishing with nine points and 12 rebounds in the win. Williams has led or tied for the team lead in rebounding in 19 of Maryland’s 26 games.

- Maryland improved to 17-0 this season when leading at halftime.

Check out the final stats here and the live blog below.

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4:11 p.m. — HOLY FREAKING CRAP!

The enigmatic Cliff Tucker with the biggest shot of his career and one he will NEVER forget!

Maryland wins over Georgia Tech, 76-74!

4:09 p.m. — I have to say I’m absolutely stunned over the last few moments of this one. While you obviously understand the desire to call the timeout, this one will hurt that much more given the miracle shot from Vasquez that didn’t count.

4:08 p.m. – Favors scores on the putback to give Tech the lead.

Vasquez throws up a prayer and it goes in, but it won’t count as Maryland called the timeout.

0.9 seconds remaining, and Maryland will have a final shot. This would just be a devastating loss.

4:06 p.m. — Bell scores inside with little resistant to give Tech a 1-point lead with 19.3 seconds to go.

Can you say drama?

4:04 p.m. — How does Gregory miss that? On a side note, this crew clearly misses a travel, so perhaps that was the basketball gods’ way of balancing things out on that possession.

Timeout on the floor. Tech has the ball with 29.6 remaining and 26 seconds on the shot clock. Maryland leads by one.

4:02 p.m. — Following the Maryland timeout, Vasquez passes up the 3-point attempt and a wide-open Hayes DRILLS it to give the Terps a three-point lead. Brilliant execution coming out of the timeout.

Favors scores on the tip-in and Tech quickly calls a timeout.

3:59 p.m. — Did Hayes REALLY just make that? The margin for error on that shot was miniscule and that’s putting it kindly.

Gregory is called for the foul trying to tie up Lawal. Tough call there in that spot.

However, Lawal misses them both.

3:57 p.m. — Williams connects on the second free throw to tie the game.

Gregory is whistled for the foul, the ninth team foul. Favors connects on a pair to put Tech up, 68-66.

3:56 p.m. — What can you say about Jordan Williams’ effort today, and all year for that matter? Just a TREMENDOUS play right there by the freshman, and the crowd LOVES it.

3:55 p.m. — Bell goes to the line following the media timeout and cans 1-of-2.

Tucker cannot connect on another triple attempt, but Williams makes a HUGE play to grab the rebound and score in the paint. It’s a one-point lead for Tech.

3:51 p.m. — Just a HUGE shot by Tucker. I figured Vasquez would take it to the hole with the shot clock winding down, but the Jackets leave Tucker wide open.

We’ve reached the final media timeout of the second half with Georgia Tech leading Maryland, 65-63, with 3:54 remaining.

3:49 p.m. — Gary Williams just RIPPED off his jacket following that last offensive rebound by the Yellow Jackets. Then, D’Andre Bell hits the 3-ball to give Tech a 65-60 lead. Just unacceptable.

Timeout, Maryland.

3:47 p.m. — Shumpert hits a pair of free throws after the foul by Mosley to give Tech a two-point lead.

Milbourne misses the jumper from the elbow on the other end. Not sure I’m crazy about that shot so early in the possession given the way he’s played today.

3:44 p.m. — It will be very interesting to see how the Terps play in the final 6:33 of this one. The number of times they’ve had to grind out a win at home in the final minutes this season have been few and far between.

3:39 p.m. — Maryland is definitely getting some nice contributions from unlikely sources this afternoon. Gregory now has nine points while Bowie has hit his second triple of the afternoon.

However, Lawal just tied it up with a putback, tying the game at 58-58. We’ve reached the under-8 media timeout.

3:32 p.m. — We’ve reached the under-12 media timeout with 11:48 remaining. Maryland leads Georgia Tech, 51-46.

3:30 p.m. — Don’t like seeing the mental mistake by Gregory there. Too close of a game to blatantly give away a possession.

3:29 p.m. — I’m not sure how that’s not a foul on Peacock. I really don’t.

And I rarely complain about the officiating.

3:27 p.m. — With the shot clock winding down, Vasquez drives against Miller and draws the foul. Vasquez makes a pair, and the lead is up to five.

Gregory checks into the game as Shumpert scores on a second-chance opportunity.

3:23 p.m. — The crowd didn’t like that one, but Hayes clearly gave him a shove. That’s what happens though when you have a substandard crew. Every call from here on out will be scrutinized to put it mildly.

3:21 p.m. — We’ve reached the first media timeout of the second half with Maryland leading Tech, 43-40. The crowd is really letting Mike Eades, Roger Ayers, and Raymond Styons have it.

Not a good day for that crew to say the least, but it’s been bad all around.

3:19 p.m. — Is there any question Miller initiated the contact on that one? Perfect example of anticipating a call right there.

Milbourne FINALLY scores his first field goal of the afternoon.

3:16 p.m. — After missing the first, Milbourne finally gets on the board with his second attempt. He’s still 0-for-8 from the field in this one.

Hayes scores on the Terps’ next possession, and Williams displays some nice defensive work on the other end.

Vasquez gets around his man and scores on the baseline runner. However, Shumpert hits a jumper on the other end, and Hewitt quickly calls a timeout.

Maryland leads Georgia Tech, 41-37, with 16:32 remaining.

3:12 p.m. — Milbourne cannot buy a bucket at this point. The Terps then turn it over as Vasquez tries to get it to the forward on the inbound play. Lack of focus there, and it causes the turnover.

3:11 p.m. — Vasquez is way short on the 3-point attempt and then picks up a silly foul trying to take the ball away from Favors.

On the Terps’ next possession, Vasquez displays a beautiful spin and finds Williams for the layup. Beautifully orchestrated by the senior guard.

3:08 p.m. — We’re ready for the start of the second half, and I expect much of the same as we saw in the first 20 minutes. A very physical battle. Let’s hope Williams can stay out of foul trouble.

3:05 p.m. — Considering how badly the Terps were being outrebounded in the first eight minutes of the game, they’ve held their own since that point. Tech has the edge at 25-22 and has secured 10 offensive rebounds to eight for the Terps.

Favors has a game-high 11 points for the Jackets while Vasquez leads the Terps with 10 points at the break.

3:01 p.m. — Milbourne really struggled in the first half, shooting 0-for-5 and failing to register a point. We’ve seen him struggle against the bigger frontcourts of the conference before, and the first half was no exception.

2:55 p.m. — We’ve reached the end of the first half with Tech scoring the final four points before the break.

Maryland leads at halftime, 34-32.

2:48 p.m. — Mosley scores inside on the putback. He’s been a forgotten man on the offensive end lately to say the least.

Timeout on the floor with 1:06 remaining. Maryland leads Georgia Tech, 34-28.

2:40 p.m. — Williams just picked up his second foul as Lawal scores inside. It’s clear Gary Williams and the Terps are not pleased with a few of these foul calls in the first half. Maryland will need to manage inside without Williams for the remainder of the half.

Vasquez scores and is fouled, giving him nine points, as we reach the final media timeout of the first half. Maryland leads Georgia Tech, 30-27.

2:37 p.m. — I was just going to mention it’s been a quiet start for Eric Hayes, but he’s scored five points on Maryland’s last two possessions. He had a very rough night in Raleigh and was feeling under the weather.

2:36 p.m. — Mosley going inside against Favors is not a battle the sophomore from Baltimore is going to win. Not much you can do there.

Favors hits the shot and is fouled by Gregory who gave him a tiny push. He completes the three-point play, and the Yellow Jackets have the lead.

Following a Hayes miss, Mosley controls the rebound and Williams eventually scores on the putback. Maryland continues to really struggle in finding good shots out of its half-court offense.

2:31 p.m. — We’ve reached the under-8 media timeout with Maryland and Georgia Tech tied up, 18-18.

2:29 p.m. — Georgia Tech comes out of the timeout looking to press, but the Terps handle it well as Jordan Williams is fouled and will go to the line for a pair.

The frosh misses both and continues to struggle from the charity stripe. I still think Williams will eventually be a good free throw shooter—for a big man.

2:27 p.m. — We’ve reached our second media timeout with the Terps enjoying an 18-15 advantage over Georgia Tech. This one definitely hasn’t been an exhibition of great offense as the Jackets are shooting just 26 percent while Maryland is a little better at 36.8 percent.

2:24 p.m. — Adrian Bowie with a 3-pointer. I figured, after Wednesday night, his quota for triples was satisfied until March.

Nice to see him shooting the ball a little better. It’s been a rough season for him.

2:22 p.m. — Georgia Tech already has nine offensive rebounds in this one. The Jackets are just dominating the glass in the first eight minutes of this one.

The Terps will need a big day from Dino Gregory, and the junior has delivered in the last two possessions. The MONSTER dunk sends the students into a frenzy as Maryland takes a two-point lead.

2:20 p.m. — Despite all the trees in the Tech frontcourt, little Moe Miller just grabbed the offensive board and is fouled by Williams, sending the guard to the line.

He makes 1-of-2, but Maryland cannot grab the board and Shumpert hits the 3-pointer. Too many second-chance opportunities in the early going.

2:18 p.m. — Gary Williams was clearly unhappy during that last timeout, walking all the way out to the lane to question the jump ball call.

After a Milbourne missed 3-pointer, Jordan Williams cleans up the offensive glass and scores to tie the game at 4-4. Ugly start for both teams in this one.

However, as I type that last statement, Vasquez just hit a 3-ball to become the sixth player in Maryland history to eclipse the 2,000-point mark for his career. Just a brilliant, under-appreciated career for the senior from Venezuela here in College Park.

2:13 p.m. — Maryland is definitely off to a cold start shooting the basketball and is struggling inside against Tech’s big men. Almost to the first media timeout, and the Terps have a measly two points.

Favors and Williams just got tangled up battling for the rebound, and the officials rule a jump ball to the displeasure of the Comcast Crowd.

We’ve reached the first media timeout with Maryland trailing Georgia Tech, 4-2.

2:10 p.m. — Williams is matched up against Lawal instead of Favors, and the Jackets’ leading scorer curls around him for the inside bucket. It should be interesting to see how Milbourne holds up against the imposing Favors.

2:06 p.m. — Very odd to see Georgia Tech wearing white considering it’s the road team, but as mentioned before, the Terps are again wearing the gold threads at Comcast.

Tech controls the opening tip but cannot score on two different shot attempts. On the other end, Vasquez may have gotten away with the travel but scores on the runner.

2:02 p.m. — As I mentioned this morning on the Fantasy Flavor with Thyrl Nelson, I expect a great battle between Derrick Favors and Jordan Williams this afternoon. Favors got off to a fast start and has garnered more national attention, but Williams has clearly been one of the top freshmen in the conference.

1:57 p.m. — Lost in the hype of today’s game is the great respect between Gary Williams and Paul Hewitt. Both coaches just spent a few minutes chatting after Williams walked onto the court.

1:50 p.m. — The pregame festivities are underway, and Lefty Driesell just accompanied honorary captain Larry Gibson to the floor.

1:48 p.m. — Here are today’s starting lineups:

Georgia Tech
G Iman Shumpert
G Glen Rice, Jr.
G D’Andre Bell
F Derrick Favors
F Gani Lawal

Maryland
G Eric Hayes
G Greivis Vasquez
G Sean Mosley
F Landon Milbourne
F Jordan Williams

1:46 p.m. — In what should come as no surprise at this point in conference play, the Terps will again wear the gold uniforms.

This ends your one and only fashion update for the entire afternoon.

1:40 p.m. — Good afternoon from College Park as the Terps (18-7, 8-3 ACC) prepare to host Paul Hewitt’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (18-8, 6-6) at 2:00 p.m.

Maryland will play its fourth game in eight days, coming off a 67-58 victory at NC State on Wednesday night in which the Terps came back from a 12-point deficit in the second half. Greivis Vasquez scored a game-high 26 points to lead the comeback, but Jordan Williams provided a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds to control the paint against the Wolfpack.

Vasquez will have the opportunity to secure another milestone in his brilliant career, needing only five points to become the sixth player in Maryland history to eclipse the 2,000-point mark. In doing so, the senior from Caracas, Venezuela would become the first ACC player ever to reach 2,000 points, 700 assists, and 600 rebounds for his career.

A victory would clinch a winning conference record for the Terps and would push them a step closer to a first-round bye in the ACC tournament. A 10-6 conference record is generally considered to be the mark needed to secure a tournament bid. Of course, the ACC tournament could skew things a bit, but Maryland is unquestionably in great shape here on the 20th of February.

Georgia Tech has followed an inconsistent pattern throughout the season despite an imposing frontcourt of Gani Lawal (14.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg) and freshman standout Derrick Favors (11.1 ppg, 8.2 rpg). Georgia Tech has lost three of five and does not want to fall below the .500 mark in the final quarter of the conference schedule. The Yellow Jackets have struggled in the backcourt, a problem Maryland hopes to exploit this afternoon.

In addition to its guard struggles, Georgia Tech has struggled mightily on the road in conference play with its lone victory coming against North Carolina on Jan. 16. Couple that with Maryland’s 5-0 ACC home record (12-1 overall), and it figures to be a sizable task for Paul Hewitt’s squad to win at Comcast Center this afternoon.

This afternoon’s game will be televised by Raycom (WNUV-TV 54 in Baltimore) with Tim Brant and Cory Alexander calling the action.

As always, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST) where Glenn Clark and other WNST personalities will provide insight throughout the afternoon.

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