Though less than smooth, Terps put up an 85-58 win

Rust shows, but Maryland flattens UNC-Greensboro

December 24, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -They played with a lack of smoothness befitting a team performing for the first time in nine days. But the No. 24-ranked Maryland Terrapins did not have to worry for long last night.

Maryland used enough of its quickness and height advantages, produced a strong defensive effort for most of the way and got a nice lift from its bench. It was all too much for UNC-Greensboro to handle as the Terps blew open a slightly uncomfortable game early in the second half and rolled to an 85-58 victory before an announced crowd of 17,950 at Comcast Center.

Four players scored in double figures for the Terps (7-2), who tuned up for Sunday's Atlantic Coast Conference opener at Florida State before a passive crowd missing many of the raucous students who have vacated the campus for the semester break.

Sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley scored a game-high 19 points, and had five rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Chris McCray scored 11 points and contributed an outstanding defensive effort against Spartans guard Jay Joseph. Sophomore forward Travis Garrison had 10 points and five rebounds.

And reserve freshman forward Ekene Ibekwe scored a career-high 13 points and grabbed six rebounds in only 15 minutes, leading a bench that wore down UNC-Greensboro and produced 30 points.

"This is always the game, coming out of exams, that coaches worry about the most," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who delivered some stern lectures during timeouts to arouse the Terps, who started slowly in each half.

"We weren't very good offensively for a while. We allowed them to hang around a little bit. You have to remind [the players] that we have a game tonight, and we have to play this game before we leave."

The Spartans (4-6), coming off a 106-98 loss at No. 11 Missouri, were playing their third of five consecutive road games.

Although they put up a bit of a fight by cutting a 10-point halftime deficit to 46-38 three minutes into the second half, the Spartans could not prevent the Terps from giving Williams his 100th nonconference Maryland victory at home. He is 100-2 in that setting.

Not that Maryland didn't make its coach squirm. The Terps once again shot poorly from the free-throw line, making just 10 of 19 attempts. They suffered glaring lapses on the boards, where Spartans backup forward Jelani Lawrence (12 points) hurt them with 12 points and eight rebounds on 6-for-6 shooting. He scored after grabbing each of his five offensive rebounds.

But the Spartans could not counter Maryland's depth and athleticism on defense, which worked hard enough to force four illegal screen calls against UNC-Greensboro.

The effort started with McCray, who harassed Joseph, the Spartans' leading scorer and the reigning Southern Conference Player of the Year, from the opening tip. Joseph missed 11 of his first 13 shots before finishing with 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting.

"[McCray] was in my face all night. He made it tough to get open," Joseph said. "He really made me work throughout the game. He's long, he's athletic, and so it was a tough night."

On a night when senior center Jamar Smith (six points) was limited by foul trouble, the Terps pressed on and ran the Spartans out of the gym.

The game basically boiled down to a 22-7 Maryland run spanning nearly 10 minutes that gave the Terps a 71-45 lead with 7:09 to go. Ebekwe scored nine points during the run.

The Terps were not exactly sparkling as they took a 42-32 halftime lead. They showed some predictable rust in the early going as UNC-Greensboro beat them down the floor in transition enough and bothered them enough with a 2-3 zone to trade baskets and take an 11-10 lead four minutes into the contest.

Forward Ronnie Burrell (16 points) had his way early with Smith guarding him, scoring eight of the Spartans' first 15 points. His fast-break layup following an air ball by Smith pulled UNC-Greensboro to within 16-15 with 11:58 left in the half.

That awakened Maryland, which suddenly began to force turnovers and bad shots by the Spartans. Starting with a putback by Caner-Medley, the Terps went on a 21-6 run that staked them to a 37-21 lead with 5:17 left in the half. Caner-Medley, Smith, Ibekwe and Travis Garrison each scored four points during the run.

But just as quickly as Maryland appeared to gain control of the Spartans, the Terps slipped, while UNC-Greensboro found new life in the form of Lawrence. He owned the boards in the final four minutes and scored eight points to drive an 11-5 run that trimmed Maryland's halftime lead to 42-32.

"You've got to do what you've got to do," Caner-Medley said. "You can't make excuses. Everybody has finals. You can't worry about the crowd. As a group, if you can find intensity from the locker room, you play well."

Next for Terps

Matchup: No. 24 Maryland (7-2) at Florida State (10-1)

Site: Leon Civic Center, Tallahassee, Fla.

Time: Sunday, 5:30 p.m.

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

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