Greivis Vasquez, Eric Hayes and Landon Milbourne had lost to Duke six straight times. They were never going to play in front of a Maryland crowd again. For better or for worse, they would never forget March 3, 2010.
The fourth-ranked Blue Devils came into the Comcast Center alone atop the ACC riding an eight-game win streak. It didn't matter. The Terps gutted out an emotional victory Wednesday night, slaying their biggest rival 79-72.
In front of a sellout crowd of 17,950 that stormed the court as soon as the buzzer sounded, a season that has come to be defined by the performance of Vasquez reached a climax by playing as a complete team.
Vasquez finished with 20 points and five assists, Hayes scored 13 and matched his season high in rebounds with five and freshman forward Jordan Williams avenged his worst performance of the season at Duke in a mid-February blowout with one of his best, tallying 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
That was a courageous performance for Jordan, Maryland head coach Gary Williams said after the game. He really got schooled down at Duke and they have a way of doing that with their size. I thought Jordan really learned from that game. He came out tonight and I think he was determined to show that he can play with the big guys and he did a very good job for us.
Williams also had two plays of the game early, both at the expense of Maryland fans' least favorite Blue Devil, Jon Scheyer. Five minutes into the game, he took a pass from Vasquez and threw down an earth-shattering dunk while drawing a foul on the Duke senior. He also had a tremendous block of a Scheyer layup midway through the second half.
The Terps bench was huge in not only keeping the team afloat, but also extending their lead in Vasquez and Hayes' absence. Adrian Bowie scored five in a 10-2 run giving Maryland a 54-49 lead with 11:11 to go in the game. Bowie finished the game with nine points, four rebounds and two assists, making all four of his shots from the field.
I thought Adrian Bowie tonight in the second half was a great player, said Williams. He might have been the difference for us. He got us through.
At the end of the game, though, the man they call General Greivis showed why he is a frontrunner for ACC player of the year, hitting an incredible running jumper while falling out of bounds at a seemingly impossible angle to give the Terps a four point lead with 37 seconds to go, sending an already deafening crowd into delirium.
It was a tough shot, said Vasquez, laughing. It was meant to be. I'm honored. I've worked on those shots you know, but God wanted me to win and score that the way that I did, and it was unbelievable. I was on the floor, I was looking at it and whoosh
it went in.
Before the game, an emotional and raucous crowd cheered as two team managers, then Jerome Burney, who missed this year due to injury and is graduating, Milbourne, Hayes and Vasquez were honored with framed jerseys. The trio, who have been tri-captains the last two years, will all graduate in May.
[Hayes, Milbourne and Vasquez] are special because they all have come through some things, Williams said. They all heard, especially last year, that they weren't good enough. It's nice to see that they were good enough to be pretty good players here at Maryland.
Hayes and Milbourne each have scored more than 1,000 points, and Vasquez is the only player in ACC history with 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds. Vasquez is Maryland's third all-time leading scorer (behind Juan Dixon, who was in attendance, and Len Bias), is second all-time in assists and second in three pointers made.
What [Vasquez] has done for himself, Williams said, as a person, for his family, what lies ahead for him and his family, it is a great story. It is tremendous to see. To see the guy that comes over here and can barely speak English at all and now he is going to graduate.
Vasquez said it best to reporters writing their stories as he left Comcast Center surrounded by family and friends for the last time after a game. With a mile-wide grin on his face, he waved his arm to press row and yelled, Last time I see all you guys!