One possession. One shot. And everyone knew who would take it.
“You want to put the ball in the hands of your best player,” coach Gary Williams said. “At least I do.”
That’s usually the case with the Terrapins. Especially Greivis Vasquez’s Terrapins.
Sometimes it works. In Tuesday night’s closing moments against Wake Forest, it didn’t as Maryland dropped an 85-83 overtime decision.
Ultimately, this is Vasquez’s team. Even if all of his teammates don’t shimmy like the Venezuelan, don’t bark out to the crowd as the guard does, don’t possess Vasquez’s variability, there's little doubt whose imprint is embedded on this outfit.
That unpredictability is about the only thing about Vasquez someone can predict. Well, that plus 20-point outings (he’s hit that plateau seven straight times) and the eagerness to handle big shots.
Vasquez’s penchant for late heroics --- or at least attempting them --- was available for all to see yet again at the Joel Coliseum. He had a season-high 30 points, yet the Terps (10-5, 1-1 ACC) were down two.
In came the pass. Off to the wing went Vasquez. Ten seconds still remained, and off the shot floated toward the basket, the tie-dyed tapestry of Wake Forest’s fervent fans serving as a backdrop.
It clanked away. Sean Mosley missed from outside a few seconds later. Maryland couldn’t get a tip-in with the final tenth of a second. Game over.
“I probably should have drived,” Vasquez acknowledged later. “I thought I was going to shoot overhand. … We almost got them. I don’t want to say they got a little lucky, but I might give them credit this time because they won the game.”
Yet also bizarrely.
Maryland was sluggish for long stretches, a problem perhaps brought on by the necessity to play twice in three days. Yet it’s just as possible the Demon Deacons (12-3, 1-1) were better able to harness their height and athleticism than Florida State, the Terps’ victim just 48 hours earlier.
Whatever the case, Maryland trailed 58-50 with 12 minutes left, seemingly unable to put together a quick, deficit-erasing rally. Conversely, Wake showed no ability to completely dispatch the Terps.
It was a nearly crucial mistake. The Terps eventually climbed back, eventually stymied Wake’s halfcourt offense to make a push. Three late bullets --- 3-pointers from Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes --- gave the Terps a two-point lead, only for Al-Farouq Aminu (24 points) to make a pair of foul shots with 29.3 seconds remaining to force overtime.
It was there the Terps needed one of two plays to fall in their favor. Neither did.
Vasquez’s shot was one, but whether it was a wise choice or the product of a quick trigger, there was little question he would try it.
The other came moments earlier, when Wake Forest guard Ish Smith carefully waited outside the 3-point arc before breaking down Hayes and lofting in the go-ahead basket with 19.8 seconds left.
Smith fluttered about the lane all night, driving and distributing as needed. This time, he simply plowed through to float in the winner.
“Foul line to foul line, he’s the quickest guy in the league this year,” Williams said. “I don’t think anyone’s quicker. I thought we did OK on him, but he made a big one when he had to. He shot 8-for-23, but I wish he’d only taken 22 shots.”
Vasquez still took more --- a career-high 27 --- each one taking on more significance than the last. And for all the unexpected twists, the Terps remained a factor until time finally ran out on a long night to cap a short-yet-rough stretch.
“We just have to keep fighting,” guard Adrian Bowie said. “We know we should have won this game. The ball just didn’t roll our way.”
Not this time, even though the Terps stuck to their script. Play hard. Hang around. Let Vasquez do his thing when it matters most.
It didn’t quite work against Wake Forest. That doesn’t mean it won’t work later in the season.
“It’s a tough loss,” Vasquez said. “But if you look at the positive, we should have won the game. But we didn’t. That’s a fact.”