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March 1, 2009RALEIGH - Greivis Vasquez did what he wanted when he wanted Sunday in keeping Maryland's NCAA Tournament hopes alive, while putting NC State in a position to probably have to win the ACC Tournament to reach its postseason dreams.
Vasquez scored a game-high 33 points and dished out five assists in leading Maryland to a 71-60 victory over NC State in front of 13,835 fans at the RBC Center. Maryland improved to 18-10 overall and 7-7 in the ACC, while NC State fell to 15-12 overall and 5-9 in the conference.
"I haven't felt this way about a game in a while because we've been playing good basketball," NCSU coach Sidney Lowe said. "I'm disappointed."
Vasquez went 13 of 23 from the field, and 4 of 8 from three-point land, mixing in some floaters and crafty moves in the lane to get freed up. His unguarded three-pointer at the buzzer with Maryland up eight at the time helped put him two points shy of his career-high, which was set in the Terrapins' upset overtime win over North Carolina on Feb. 21.
"We got great scoring Greivis tonight, but he was also tough in the timeouts," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We stayed tough because he doesn't want to lose and he gets that through to the others."
Vasquez did most of his damage against NC State senior shooting guard Courtney Fells, but later switched sophomore point guard Javi Gonzalez on him, which slowed him down a little.
Vasquez effectively ended the game with a floater in the lane with 25.8 seconds left to give Maryland a 66-60 lead. Reserve wing Cliff Tucker also hit a big shot with the shot clock winding down that gave the Terps a 64-54 lead with 2:10 left.
"For some reason, we kept backing off," Lowe said. "Vasquez did it again. He just scored. He won the matchup. Javi did a great job trying to deny him, but we didn't do enough, so he scored. We didn't guard him at all."
NC State ended up playing at Maryland's pace with Vasquez dictating the game's tempo. The Terrapins also tried to mask their undersized front court - their tallest starter was 6-foot-7 Landon Milbourne - by playing a 2-3 zone.
The Wolfpack knew that 6-8 Tracy Smith, 6-10 Ben McCauley and 6-9 Brandon Costner would sometimes get matched up against smaller players in the paint.
NC State tried to carve up the zone with sophomore power forward Smith doing most of the damage. Smith went 8 of 12 from the field for a team-high 19 points, plus nine rebounds.
Smith went to work when the Wolfpack mounted their biggest challenge in the second half. NC State took its first lead of the game, 49-47 with 9:15 left, but the Terrapins always seemed to have an answer. Tucker quickly gave Maryland the lead back with a big three-pointer, 50-49.
Smith split a pair of free throws to tie the game 50-50, and later tied it again following a Vasquez score 52-52. Smith scored his last point of the game with a free throw to make it 55-53 with 6:54 remaining.
Vasquez always seemed to make the play whenever NC State challenged.
"He's clever," Lowe said. "He has a great basketball IQ. He's a savvy player. He is able to read the defense and know what you're doing. If we chased him, he curled."
The Wolfpack struggled from the perimeter, shooting 5 of 19 from three-point range, compared to shooting 62.3 percent on two-pointers (17 of 27).
"We knew that if they got it inside it would be a problem to stop them," Williams said. "Our man was good early, but we to zone the last part of the first half and in the second half because of foul trouble, but we stayed with it because it worked."
NC State held a 38-28 advantage on the boards against the undersized Terrapins, but the Wolfpack also committed eight more turnovers, finishing with 16.
NC State's offense never found a rhythm and struggled to avoid playing at Maryland's tempo.
"We weren't taking care of the ball," Lowe said. "We were tentative on the perimeter. Tracy and Ben [McCauley] did a solid job for us, but we have to have more than three guys playing."
Gonzalez finished with 11 points and five assists, while McCauley and Fells added 10 points apiece.
NC State hosts Boston College on Wednesday for the last home game for seniors McCauley, Fells and Simon Harris.