Coach Gary Williams was pacing back and forth along the sidelines of the Comcast Center, about to come out of his socks with worry.
Intense as ever, Williams can now relax and perhaps smile a bit after his unranked Maryland Terrapins defeated a formidable Florida State Seminoles team 77-68, much to the delight of the huddled masses wearing the home colors.
Senior guard Greivis Vasquez continued his torrid scoring stride, knocking in 22 points to score at least 20 points in six straight games. Florida State's seven-game win streak was rudely snapped by a confident Maryland backcourt.
The tone of the game was set early, as the Terps (10-4 1-0, ACC) were not going to be forced to play horse by a strong ACC defensive opponent.
Maryland's classic pressure defense was working especially well in the first half. They outrebounded the previously ranked No. 18 Seminoles 20-12 heading into halftime.
Rebounding has been the Achilles' heel of the Terrapins this season. Today, they were covering every loose ball and were effective at disrupting the offensive game plan that the Seminoles had wanted to run on them.
Whenever the Seminoles appeared to have an opening into the lane, a forward would immediately slide down to contest the shot. Florida State (13-3 1-1, ACC) was led by big 7'1" sophomore Solomon Alabi, who scored 17 points on seven of 10 shot attempts.
However, Florida State was caught sleeping on defense, and the Maryland guards made them pay for it by getting Alabi into foul trouble.
The Terrapins took a 41-27 halftime lead using smart inside-outside fundamental basketball. They shot just under 47 percent for the game, up four points from their season average of 43 percent. Florida State closed the gap with an 11-0 run to get within three points of the lead, and the score was 48-45.
For every push the Seminoles made, the Terps had an even better answer.
Senior guard Eric Hayes saved Maryland from disaster by nailing five of six three-point shots. He finished his night with 17 points, and solidified his presence on the court with authority.
Hayes has played four seasons in College Park in Greivis Vasquez's shadow. Tonight, he let it be known to the world that Maryland is much more than a one-trick pony.
Led by Hayes' sharp shooting from beyond the arc, Maryland essentially negated the size advantage the Seminoles were hoping to exploit.
Alabi's long absence in the paint provided Maryland with an opportunity to be more aggressive in their shot selection. It meant that they could build a big lead and continue to put the onus on Florida State's offense to match them basket for basket.
Forward Chris Singleton tried to keep Florida State from being run out of the arena, but he had little help down on the block with his cohort sitting on the bench. Maryland's lead stretched to 16 as the second half began.
By the time Alabi found his offensive rhythm, the Terps were heating up on the outside. And they stuck to a specific attacking defense.
It was way too late for Florida State to turn away Maryland's pressure, as the Terps did not divert from playing man-to-man.
With the game firmly in hand, Coach Williams wiped his sweaty brow and breathed a heavy breath. Just another day at the office for the grizzled coach and his cagey crew.
Maryland will play at Wake Forest on Tuesday, Jan. 12.
Wake Forest (11-3, 1-1 ACC) suffered a tough loss on Saturday, falling 67-66 to the Miami Hurricanes in Coral Gables, FL.
Maryland is 7-1 at Comcast Center, 3-0 on the road, and 0-3 at neutral sites on the season.
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