Terps enjoy change of pace, 96-72 win

Pepperdine perfect tonic for OT games, slow start

December 15, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - For a while last night, the Maryland Terrapins were trying to shake a Florida hangover. But once that problem had dissipated, the Terps played superb basketball against an inferior opponent and coasted to victory for a change.

There was very little suspense in Maryland's 96-72 victory against Pepperdine at Comcast Center, and the Terps needed such a break after an unusual run of recent close calls. Four days after upsetting top-ranked Florida on the road in overtime - Maryland's third overtime contest in eight days - the Terps built a fat lead early in the second half and swiftly eliminated the Waves from contention.

This is precisely how Maryland (6-2) wanted to head into its nine-day break for final exams. For starters, the Terps expect to be ranked for the first time this season.

After looking a bit stagnant in the first 10 minutes, the Terps reached a season high in scoring, shot 54.3 percent overall and 62.5 percent from three-point range, both season highs. They passed the ball and protected it well, made progress at the free-throw line, ruled the boards, played strong half-court defense and emptied their bench for the first time since the season opener.

Five Terps scored in double figures, led by guards John Gilchrist (24 points) and D.J. Strawberry (17 points), who both reached career highs.

Maryland was so efficient that a game-high 36 points by Pepperdine (3-5) forward Glen McGowan - the most scored against the Terps since North Carolina's Antawn Jamison dropped 36 on them on Feb. 14, 1998, in Chapel Hill - was reduced to a sideshow.

"You could tell a lot of people were still thinking about that [Florida] game. That was an emotional roller coaster to come down from. It's kind of hard to get over a win like that," Gil- christ said. "We really stepped up our game and raised the bar in the second half."

"Getting over the Florida game is something a mature team has to do, if you want to be good," sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley said. "We have to understand that one game doesn't make or break a regular season. You've got to have some sort of consistency. You've got to move on."

Starting with a huge match-up advantage at the point guard position, the Terps pounded the Waves at will.

Gilchrist, 6-foot-3, drove by and bullied Pepperdine's 5-11 Shaun Davis while making 10 of 18 shots. His eight-point spurt to start the second half drove an 11-2 run that put Maryland firmly in front, 55-34, with 17:54 left in the game. Gilchrist also had seven assists and five rebounds.

Strawberry, 6-5, playing about half of his 23 minutes as Gil- christ's backup, proved he can shoot as well as defend. He shot 7-for-8 from the field and showed that the recent decision by Andre Collins to transfer certainly has not weakened the Terps at the quarterback spot.

"[Gilchrist] is teaching me so much. You've got two different kind of looks to worry about," Strawberry said. "Between me and John, we're going to create havoc."

Senior center Jamar Smith recorded his seventh double double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Caner-Medley had 10 points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Chris McCray had 11 points, seven assists, two blocked shots and no turnovers in 25 minutes.

And for the first time since its easy victory over American in the season opener, Maryland coach Gary Williams was able to reach deep into his bench with a comfortable lead.

Freshman guard Mike Jones, who has struggled adapting to Maryland's system, showed some zip with eight points, three rebounds and two assists. Freshman center Will Bowers finished with four points and four rebounds. In all, 11 players scored.

"I think we were all curious just how we'd play after the Florida game, and I think it took us a while to get playing, but once we did I thought we played a pretty good level," Williams said. "I was real impressed."

The Terps were flatfooted early in the first half, which featured four ties and six lead changes. But, despite losing forwards Travis Garrison and Ekene Ibekwe to foul trouble early, Maryland gradually gained control of the Waves over the last 12 minutes and took a 44-32 halftime lead.

With Gilchrist leading the spark after that, the knockout came quickly, and Maryland went on to produce 52 second-half points.

The Terps made 21 of 31 shots (67.7 percent) in the half, and, because they were conscious of Pepperdine's three-point shooters, chose not to press defensively, yet still ran excellent offense despite producing only four steals. Maryland worked the ball inside effectively, beat the Waves down the floor and made their open looks at the basket count.

In their past two games, the Terps have hit 51.5 percent of their three-point attempts. Last night, they made 10 of 16 free throws (62.5 percent), significant progress in that area.

"Each game is a building block," Gilchrist said. "The game starts to slow down, so we can pick our spots to produce. Each game, each practice, guys are getting better and more confident."

Next for Terps

Matchup: North Carolina-Greensboro (4-3) vs. Maryland (6-2)

Site:Comcast Center, College Park

When:Dec. 23, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

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