Terps Hang On For 69-61 Win Over Fighting Illini in Big Ten-ACC Challenge
#5 Eric Hayes led the team in scoring this evening with 18 points. Hayes made it to the basket for a layup with 8:54 remaining in the second half to put the Terps up 51-46. Maryland went on to win 69-61 over Illinois in the ACC/Big-Ten Challenge on November 28, 2007. Christopher Blunck/DC Sports Box
COLLEGE PARK, Md - Solid free throw shooting by Eric Hayes, Grevis Vasquez, and Landon Milbourne down the stretch gave the Terps the edge they needed to defeat the Fighting Illini in front of a home crowd in the 2007 Big Ten-ACC Challenge.  Maryland improved to 4-0 at home in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, and 6-3 overall since the battle between the two winningest NCAA conferences began in 1999.

This evening's game was a hard fought victory for the Terps.  The game was tied 9 times and the lead changed 8 times in the first half alone, and the two teams rarely went to the free throw line for shots. "Tonight you had to be a man to go inside," remarked Maryland Head Coach Gary Williams.  "It was pretty physical out there."

Braxton Dupree entered the starting lineup this evening, replacing senior Bombale Osby who has been under the weather with a stomach ailment.  In 11 minutes of play Dupree managed to sink 4 of 6 field goals, and grabbed 2 offensive and 2 defensive rebounds.  His presence on the court gave Maryland a backup man in the post position and allowed Osby to rest at key points in the game.

Coach Williams looked at the Dupree/Osby combination and gave Dupree the nod after considering Osby's experience as a senior: "Sometimes a player like Boom can watch the first 4 minutes, pick up some things, and then go play better than if he started the game."

The Terrapins and Fighting Illini battled on either side of the scoreboard for the first 7 minutes of the game never separating by more than 3 points.  But, with roughly 13 minutes left in the first half Eric Hayes found his mark and nailed two 3 pointers and Osby hit a jumper to give the Terps a 5 point 15-10 lead.
 
Illinois battled back from the 5 point deficit on a 3 pointer by Demetri McCamey and a jumper by Mike Davis.  After a 15-15 tie the two teams traded baskets for the remaining 12 minutes and rounded out the half with a 32-32 tie.

Maryland dominated from close range in the first half, scoring 22 of their 32 points from inside the paint.  Illinois made up for their lack of presence under their own basket with 8 second chance points that seemed to come out of nowhere at times.  The Illinois bench also answered the call and sunk 13 points in the first half.

Senior James Gist commented on the first half by saying: "In the first half we rushed a little bit.  I think we were a little too excited and overaggressive..  That happens in games like this.  You just have to be able to calm down.  The team that can calm down and settle down is the team that's most likely to win."

The second half got off to a tight start and both teams played to a 44-44 tie before Coach Williams sent in freshman guard Cliff Tucker with 12 minutes to play in the game.  Tucker sparked a 9-2 run off a 3 pointer and a layup that resulted in a 53-46 Maryland lead with 8:24 remaining.  A driving layup by Eric Hayes sent the Terrapin faithful into a frenzy.

Maryland struggled down the stretch and failed to sink a field goal in the final 4:09 of the game, but some clutch free throw shooting by sophomores Landon Milbourne, Greivis Vasquez, and Eric Hayes gave the Terps the points they needed to squeak out the win.  Hayes went to the line 4 times in the final 24 seconds of play and made all 4 attempts. Milbourne was also solid, converting on all 3 of his free throws.

Eric Hayes led the team in scoring this evening with 18 points.  It was his first time as the leading scorer for the team.  12 of his 18 points came from beyond the arc.  "I thought Eric played his best game of the year," remarked Coach Williams.  "He just came out and played great."

Greivis Vasquez only scored 5 points this evening but was credited with 10 assists in his 38 minutes of play.  With both Vasquez and Hayes on the court Coach Williams has a lot of flexibility in who he plays in the shooting guard spot and who runs the point.  This evening Vasquez took the point and was solid on his assists and rebounds while Hayes put the points on the board.
 
"We're going to try to build on this one and get set for Sunday," said Hayes, offering no clues as to who will run point on Sunday against Virginia Commonwealth University.

"I was really proud of our players and the effort they put out," said Coach Williams.  "We got the win through our defensive effort and our rebounding in the second half." 

"Tonight we grinded it, and we were the team we have to be this year to be successful."

Maryland now prepares for their BB&T Classic matchup against the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams on Sunday, December 2nd at 2:30pm.  The game will be played at the Verizon Center and tickets are still available.