Terps dance past Virginia

In season finale, UM rises, 70-61, to likely clinch NCAA bid behind McCray's 20 points

`Really proud' Williams does jig at end

Rally, effort on defense, boards earn Terps sixth place in ACC

March 08, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - They went through another two-hour exercise marked by pain, anxiety and, of course, bad shooting. But after summoning enough strength and will to stage a second-half rally against Virginia last night, the Maryland Terrapins probably have paved the way to their 11th consecutive NCAA tournament.

Led by a career-high 20 points from sophomore shooting guard Chris McCray and a tremendous effort on defense and the offensive boards, Maryland erased an 11-point second-half deficit and put away upset-minded Virginia, 70-61, before a sellout crowd of 17,950 at Comcast Center.

The victory gave Maryland (16-11) the two-game winning streak it craved. The Terps concluded the regular season in sixth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 7-9 record in league play, which appears to be good enough to keep their postseason streak alive.

Maryland's next assignment is the quarterfinal round of the ACC tournament. On Friday, the Terps will face third-seeded Wake Forest, which swept the regular-season series against Maryland.

When the final buzzer sounded, the emotion roaring throughout the arena got the best of Maryland coach Gary Williams, who turned to the student section behind the Terps' bench, leaped in the air and pumped his fist several times.

"I felt really good, because we work hard. I'm really proud of these guys because they didn't stop. They kept trying," Williams said. "I thought our defense in the second half was exceptional. The whole thing was the energy. X's and O's are important. At this level, if you don't have energy and enthusiasm, you're not going to win. It came down to who was going to grind it the most."

Maryland grinded, all right. On a night when they shot just 34.3 percent and missed 17 of 21 three-point shots, the Terps trumped Virginia (16-11, 6-10) with pure heart and hustle.

After falling behind 34-27 at halftime, then giving up four points after committing two quick turnovers to start the second half, the Terps closed the door on the Cavaliers, who were desperately trying to make a case for the NCAA tournament selection committee next week.

Instead, Virginia crumbled by managing 27 second-half points, shooting 33.9 percent on the night and getting out-rebounded on the offensive end in the second half, 14-4.

McCray led the surge by scoring 15 of his points in the second half. Senior center Jamar Smith scored all 10 of his points after halftime and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds. Sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley finished with 13 points. That was enough to counter a series of junk defenses Virginia used to contain Maryland point guard John Gilchrist.

M-fThey were keying on John. Somebody had to shoot,M-F McCray said. M-fWe know we're a good team. We let a couple of games slip away from us. I think we're [in the tournament]. We just have to learn how to start games better."

The Terps broke a 57-57 tie by finishing with a 13-4 run. They made nine of their last 12 free- throw attempts.

Elton Brown scored 16 points and Devin Smith had 15 for the Cavaliers, who had won three straight. Senior guard Todd Billet, whose clutch shooting was instrumental in those three victories, went 1-for-14 from the field M-y including 0-for-10 from three-point range.

The bricks flew all over the building during a first half that provided precious few shooting highlights and lots of offensive rebounding. Both teams combined to shoot 4-for-20 from three-point range and 22-for-72 overall.

But at least Virginia found some semblance of a touch in the final five minutes of the half, as the Cavaliers overtook Maryland with a 14-6 run that gave them a 34-27 halftime lead.

But at least Virginia found some semblance of a touch in the final five minutes of the half, as the Cavaliers overtook Maryland with a 14-6 run that gave them a 34-27 halftime lead.

The Terps never warmed up in the first 20 minutes. Maryland shot 28.6 percent in the first half, got a scoreless half from Smith and only two points from Gilchrist. Thank goodness Caner-Medley (nine points on 3-for-10 shooting) showed up, along with freshmen Hassan Fofana and Ekene Ibekwe, who combined for nine first-half points off the bench.

When Maryland opened the night by missing four consecutive shots and committing a turnover without scoring on its first possession, the tone of the half was set. The act of shooting became a laborious exercise for both sides after that, especially when the Terps were trying to navigate through VirginiaM-vs zone defense.

Still, with a boost from Ibekwe, the Terps were able to tie the game at 9 on his short baseline jumper, then extend their lead to 18-13 with 9:10 left on a 12-footer by Fofana. Gilchrist, Travis Garrison and McCray each scored during the run.

But Maryland missed a chance to separate itself from the Cavaliers, who shot just 5-for-27 in the game's first 12 minutes, but still pulled to within 18-15 with 8:01 left in the half on a pair of free throws by Devin Smith. He followed that with an 18-foot jumper, then answered a three-pointer by Caner-Medley with a three-point play to cut the Maryland lead to 21-20 with 5:07 left in the half.

Then, following a missed 10-footer by McCray, the Cavaliers took a 22-21 lead on a fast- break layup by Derrick Byars with 4:27 to go. Five different Virginia players scored down the stretch, including freshman guard J.R. Reynolds, who gathered a loose ball with time running out and buried a 15-footer to give the Cavaliers a 34-27 halftime lead.

Next for Terps

ACC tournament quarterfinal: Maryland (16-11, 7-9) vs. Wake Forest (19-8, 9-7)

Site: Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum

When: Friday, 9:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

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