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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

COLLEGE PARK, Md,--

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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