Maryland defeats Minnesota 68-58 in NIT first round
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Greivis Vasquez had 16 points and six rebounds and made sure Maryland didn’t lose another big lead in a 68-58 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT.
Bambale Osby added 14 points and six boards for the fifth-seeded Terrapins (19-14), who advance to play top-seeded Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in the second round.
Damian Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds for fourth-seeded Minnesota (20-14), and was about the only Golden Gopher who had enough athleticism to compete with the dynamic Terps.
Johnson also had four blocks and Lawrence Westbrook added 11 points, but the Gophers were out-muscled in the paint and out-hustled in transition in the final game of Tubby Smith’s first season as coach here.
It was a textbook game for these Terrapins—filled with plenty of ups and downs. Maryland trailed for much of the first half while James Gist got off to a quiet 0-for-3 start.
They hung in there with free throws, then really got rolling during a six-minute span bridging the first and second halves. Maryland went on an 18-4 run, opening the second half with two soaring alley-oops to Gist to take a 45-34 lead.
But unlike a few times earlier this year when they let leads slip away— Maryland led Boston College 20-5 before losing in the first round of the ACC tournament and also led Clemson by 20 at home with 11 minutes to play of a 73-70 loss—the Terps hung on in this one.
Blake Hoffarber, the clutch lefty who downed Indiana in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals with his buzzer-beating turnaround, hit a 3-pointer with 4:19 to play that cut Maryland’s lead to 58-53.
Gist, who finished with 11 points, came back with a big 3-pointer and Osby added a dunk to put the game out of reach.
The Terrapins were on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament until being beaten by Boston College in the opening round of the ACC tournament. A victory at North Carolina during a three-game road winning streak wasn’t enough to overcome home losses to Ohio and American in the nonconference season in the eyes of the selection committee.
While slightly disappointed that they weren’t able to parlay a 10-1 start to the season into an NCAA bid, the Gophers were elated just to qualify for any postseason tournament coming off a 9-22 season in 2006-07.
With essentially the same roster, and the helpful additions of freshmen Al Nolen and Hoffarber, Smith’s first season in the Twin Cities had to be deemed a success.
All three of Minnesota’s seniors—Lawrence McKenzie, Dan Coleman and Spencer Tollackson—watched their final game in Williams Arena end from the bench.
Tollackson (ankle) and McKenzie (foot) were limited by injuries. Coleman, who managed just 12 points total in the last two games of the Big Ten tournament, was a no-show again, going scoreless and fouling out with 3:42 to play.
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