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Allow Terps their chance to gloat
STEVE DeSHAZO: Redemption is sweet for Vasquez, Williams and Terrapins

 Maryland's Greivis Vasquez celebrates a basket in the Terps' victory over Duke at the Comcast Center Wednesday.
Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer
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Date published: 3/5/2010

By Steve DeShazo


Finally, the truth can be told.

"I probably shouldn't say this, because we may play them in them in the ACC tournament," Greivis Vasquez admitted late Thursday night, "but I like Duke."

Not half as much as he enjoys beating the Blue Devils.

Maybe that's because he hadn't done it often. Before Thursday night's storybook senior night 79-72 victory, Vasquez's Terrapins had lost five straight games to Duke. A sixth would have handed the Blue Devils the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title and the top seed in next week's tournament in Greensboro, N.C.

Instead, Maryland (22-7, 12-3) can earn at least a share of its first crown since 2002 with a victory at slumping Virginia tomorrow--and can win it outright if Duke loses to North Carolina.

Not bad for a bunch of guys who believe the world is against them, huh? For a coach whose fan base was calling for his head last season--even though he led his alma mater to its only national title eight years ago. For a star player who was criticized for being too undisciplined and volatile.

"I'm really proud of this team," coach Gary Williams said. "They've been told they're not very good for a while now. Not many people gave us a chance, but we stuck together."

It's true the Terps have taken their lumps, on and off the court, since 2002. Williams didn't exactly parlay the national title and new arena into a recruiting bonanza, and his players often stagnated, rarely making noticeable improvement.

Until this year. With senior guards Vasquez and Eric Hayes leading the way, the 2009-10 Terps have played smart, largely error-free games.

And they've played with a collective chip on their shoulders, thanks to their leaders. If ever a player were an extension of his coach, it's Vasquez.

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