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Keeping up their guards page 2
Steve DeShazo's column on the Maryland-Virginia Tech game

Date published: 1/22/2007


NCAA tournament success is often all about guard play, and the Hokies have that key ingredient. Dowdell is averaging 17.3 points a game, Gordon 12.1; they also rank third and second, respectively, in the ACC in steals.

And both are in the league's top 10 in the critical category of assist-to-turnover ratio--although their seven combined giveaways last night won't help that average.

Still, they fuel the Hokies' frenetic style and cause headaches for opposing guards. They shredded Duke's backcourt in a win at Cameron Indoor Stadium and outplayed North Carolina's young backcourt in a home upset of the then-No. 1 Tar Heels.

"They know how to play. They've been around a long time," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "They're really good together; they complement each other.

"They're not just scorers; they're passers, and they know how to find the open man. That's a complete player; it's what every player wants to work towards being."

One stretch early in the second half illustrated Tech's backcourt wizardry. Sandwiched around a pair of Gordon free throws were dunks by Hokies Coleman Collins (on a nifty pass from Gordon) and Cheick Diakite (on a similar feed from Dowdell).

Each time, the Tech guard got into the lane and forced one of Maryland's foul-prone big men to leave his man and help. The result was an easy basket for Tech's frontcourt, which is athletic but will never be compared to the Celtics of the late 1980s.

Last night's win was critical for the 23rd-ranked Hokies, who probably will fall out of today's Top 25 after Wednesday's loss at Florida State but are sitting pretty in the NCAA tournament picture.

It was another missed opportunity for the Terps (15-5), who fell to 1-4 in the ACC and 4-17 in league road games over the past three seasons--with two of their next three away from Comcast Center. Still, Williams is looking only as far as Wednesday's home game with Georgia Tech.

"If we play like we played tonight, we'll be OK," he said.

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