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Freshman guards give Terps a lift
Maryland coach Gary Williams has entrusted his team to a pair
DON WRIGHT/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Between them, they also made life difficult for the Yellow Jackets' more heralded freshman point guard, Javaris Crittendon, holding him to five points on 2-for-10 shooting.
The pressure on any ACC point guard can be intense, let alone one who's just a few months removed from his prom. Vasquez is glad to have someone who understands the stress.
"It's amazing. One night I'm so good, and another night he's so good. And some nights, we're good together," Vasquez said. " Tonight, we didn't score a lot, but we ran the offense. It feels good to play with somebody like him."
Their teammates seem to appreciate it as well. Last season, Strawberry was forced to handle the ball because no one else could. He had his moments, but the Terrapins had more turnovers (528) than assists (512).
This year, the ratio is still around 1:1, but Strawberry is free to wreak havoc defensively, and senior guard Mike Jones and junior forward James Gist are averaging career highs in scoring.
Hayes averaged 26.1 points per game as a senior at Potomac, but has settled into a playmaker's role with the Terrapins. His 1.65 assist-to-turnover ratio is second-best among ACC freshmen, behind only North Carolina's blue-chipper, Ty Lawson.
Best of all, though, he's displaying much of the same calm demeanor that made Blake (who's now a Denver Nugget) the school's all-time assists leader.
"I've played in some really big high school games, but it's nothing compared to the ACC," he said. "To be in my freshman year and playing a lot, that's really going to help me down the road.
"I really didn't know what to expect. I knew they'd be big, strong amd fast. But I don't think I've been overwhelmed. Every game, I'm playing a little more and getting a little more confident."
He and Vasquez will have to continue playing more like upperclassmen if the Terrapins hope to end their two-year NCAA tournament drought. They're a modest 2-4 in ACC play, with two straight road games upcoming (at Florida State Tuesday and Wake Forest next Saturday).
"Game by game, they're playing better and better," Strawberry said. "There are a lot of freshmen in the ACC, especially at guards. They've played each other in AAU, but this is kind of different. They've picked their defense up a lot. But they have to be more physical. They're good players, and they're learning."
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