Result: Maryland, 70-65 in 60 possessions
Seminal Play: As the shot clock wound down to zero with under seven minutes to play in the game, Maryland point guard Greivis Vasquez stormed down the right side of the lane and, without looking, tossed the ball over his back shoulder as several defenders converged. The pass found forward Cliff Tucker, who laid it in for a 59-49 lead, the Terrapins' largest of the game. It was the first of five straight field goals to close the game for Maryland upon which Vasquez assisted.
Quotable: "Hey, I love me Hayes. He was playing horrible, but he hit the winning shot. He won the game. He's a tough guy. He knew he was making a lot of mistakes, but he got heart, and not many players got that. He took the ball and knew he was gonna make that shot."
--Vasquez, on guard Eric Hayes, who hit the critical three-pointer with just over a minute to play.
The Big Picture: Maryland coach Gary Williams picked up his 600th career victory in a win that gave the Terrapins sole possession of third place in the ACC behind Duke and North Carolina. In an unusually bunched up ACC, every win has implications regarding at large bids to the NCAA tournament, especially a road victory. At 5-3 in the conference and with just one game left against the top two teams, at Duke next week, the Terrapins are positioned as well as any team in the second tier to finish with a winning record in the ACC and lock in a berth to the Big Dance. The battle for third place in the conference will likely come down to Maryland and Clemson, and the Terrapins have the Tigers at home on March 2.
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass.—Two Maryland sophomore guards combined on a huge three-pointer with a minute remaining Wednesday night, which allowed the Terrapins to fend off a late surge by Boston College and emerge from Conte Forum with a 70-65 victory.
After Eagles point guard Tyrese Rice hit a long three-pointer to cut the lead of Maryland (15-8, 5-3 ACC), which had been 10 less than four minutes earlier, down to a single point at 66-65, Terrapins point guard Greivis Vasquez shrugged off the Boston College pressure—and the spirited roar of the Eagles' student section—to free himself for a drive along the baseline. When the defense of Boston College (12-9, 3-5) turned to meet him near the basket, Vasquez whipped the ball quickly on a path parallel to the endline towards the far corner, where Eric Hayes stood waiting. Hayes, who had only two points to that point and who was the subject of coach Gary Williams' fury after several bad second-half turnovers, rose up and hit the clean look with 1:09 remaining to provide the Boston College comeback a deathblow.
“I can yell at him, and he'll just look at me... He's a coach's son, he's used to all that,” Williams said of his anger with Hayes. “He took all the big shots for his high school team, so he knows how to hit them.”
It was fitting that Vasquez provided the critical assist, as his play on offense was the catalyst for Maryland during the second half. Maryland led 36-34 at the break, and the two teams fought back and forth for the first eight minutes after halftime, with the lead changing hands eight times over that span. Vasquez then transcended the stalemate by running off an 8-0 run by himself. After hitting a free throw, he stole the ball from Eagles guard Biko Paris and streaked in for a dunk. On the next Maryland possession Vasquez sliced through the lane and hit a floater, and followed that by pulling up for a three-pointer, which gave the Terrapins a 57-48 lead with 9:22 to play.
Those would be the last points that Vasquez scored, but he was far from done impacting the game. With the Boston College defense now highly attuned to his scoring ability, Vasquez was able to create good offensive opportunities for his teammates. The next 12 points of the contest—up to and including Hayes' three-point shot—were all scored on baskets that Vasquez assisted on.
On three straight Maryland possessions, the 6'6" point guard drove the lane, drew defenders, and found the open man under the basket for a layup. On the last two of those the beneficiary was senior forward James Gist, who scored 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting. After a pair of missed three pointers for the Terrapins, Vasquez again got inside and dished to forward Bambale Osby, who converted the two points to give Maryland a 66-57 lead with 3:19 to play.
“It was [Vasquez's] play-making [that hurt us],” Boston College coach Al Skinner said. “We allowed him to continue to get the ball in the area and penetrate the middle of our defense and that’s the one thing we want to avoid. He just continued to attack us. We did a bad job with out defense, plain and
simple—that really was the difference in the game.”
Rice, however, was determined not to let his fellow point guard run away with the game that easily. With five minutes to play, Boston College's leading scorer, at 19.8 points per game, had taken only five shots. He got into the action with a basket that cut the Terrapins lead to seven before Osby's layup pushed it back up, and then started his bid to pull the Eagles to victory by nailing a three-pointer. After Hayes turned the ball over, Rice broke down the defense on the drive and found forward Josh Southern for a basket which cut it to 66-62. Vasquez made a rare bad second-half decision on the ensuing possession, leaving his feet to try and pass after getting bogged down in the lane, and Eagles forward John Oates came up with the steal. Rice then fired up his long three attempt, and pumped his fist as the ball went through the net with 1:38 remaining.
After the Vasquez-Hayes combination made it a four-point game, Rice could not answer back again, as he missed another three-pointer with 41 seconds to play. Southern picked up the offensive rebound, but he was blocked decisively by Osby. The Eagles looked out of sync on offense on their next possession, and Rakim Sanders misfired on an off-balance three with 12 seconds left, which ended any last Boston College hopes.
"[Vasquez] played great. When you look at his numbers…he just outplayed me and his team came out on top,” Rice said. “It was a big point guard battle and he came out and did what he was supposed to do for his team to win, and I didn’t."
Vasquez finished with game-highs of eight assists and 25 points, on 9-of-14 shooting, while also grabbing six rebounds. Rice had only 13 points, seven off his per-game average, but he did dish out seven assists to only one turnover. Part of the reason behind his lower shot total was the game's unusually low number of possessions (60), and part was also that for most of the first half Rice was dishing to senior forward John Oates, who had a career-high 17 points by halftime on 5-of-5 shooting from three-point range, and finished with 21 points on perfect 8-of-8 shooting.
The first half was a surprising display of long-range marksmanship from two squads that are usually averse to the three, as Maryland shot 6-of-11 in the opening period (with Vasquez and Gist combining for five triples) and Boston College 8-of-14. For the game, the Eagles received 46.2 percent of their offense from deep, as compared to their seasonal average of 24.8, and Maryland 38.6 percent, compared to 20.5 entering Wednesday.
The Eagles dropped their fifth straight game in the conference, and now face their toughest test of the season, a road contest again Duke on Saturday. Maryland will return home Saturday to play North Carolina St.
Caleb Peiffer is a contributor to Basketball Prospectus. He can be reached here.