COLLEGE PARK - For about 26 minutes, the Maryland Terrapins basketball team trudged through another up-and-down effort against an exhibition opponent that should have been decidedly overmatched.
The defense was better than it was against Division II Bryant University eight days ago, and the Terps looked a little more decisive on offense.
But aside from a gritty 3 1/2 -minute stretch to close the first half, Maryland didn't appear to be playing at an energy level that it will need to be successful in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Enter James Gist. The freshman forward took over a 12-minute stretch of the second half with a series of highlight-reel dunks and his energy lifted the Terps to an 89-60 win over Carleton University yesterday at the Comcast Center.
"When we show emotion, things pick up," said junior guard Chris McCray, who scored a team-high 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting. "Our offense gets better, our defense picks up. ... For the first 15 minutes, we were playing within ourselves."
With 4:46 elapsed in the second half, Maryland led the two-time Canadian national champion, which was drubbed by Old Dominion by 49 points two days earlier, by just 52-40. Then, everything changed.
After making one of his five steals, McCray delivered a bounce pass to Gist, a 6-foot-8 forward from Good Counsel High, who practically jumped over Ravens' 6-6 forward Sheldon Stewart, and threw down a two-handed dunk, landing on top of Stewart.
A jubilant John Gilchrist leaped on Gist's back and the Comcast Center crowd erupted for one of the first times all afternoon. It didn't matter that Gist missed the ensuing free throw.
"I knew he was going to go up in the air, but I didn't think he'd do nothing like that," said McCray. "It was crazy, one of the craziest dunks I've ever seen."
Added Gist: "When I jumped, I didn't see anything but the basket. ... It felt pretty good."
Gist threw down another nasty dunk about 6 1/2 minutes later, snatching a D.J. Strawberry alley-oop pass and jamming it over two Ravens defenders. He finished with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting.
"He's an exciting player, there's no doubt about it," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "I was looking through the stat line and I was kind of glad to see he only had two rebounds so I can get on him about something."
Gist hobbled off the court at the 1:48 mark with what appeared to be a cramp, but he looked fine later. His effort - and that of the rest of the Terps reserves who accounted for 39 points - largely overshadowed what was an average performance by the Terps starters.
Gilchrist was quiet with three points and four assists, and frustration appeared to be setting in with the Terps point guard when he was taken out of the game at the 12:37 mark of the second half. The emotional Gilchrist angrily spiked a water bottle, though he said later that he was just trying to fire up his teammates.
"I thought the last five minutes of the first half, we played with a good intensity level," said Williams, whose team closed the first half on a 10-0 run to take a 45-29 halftime lead. "I thought that would carry through right to the start of the second half, but it didn't. We had to make some changes, and I thought the guys on the court did a great job."
Maryland's lineup for the majority of the second half included Strawberry (10 points, five assists), Will Bowers, Gist, Mike Jones and little-used senior Mike Grinnon. Bowers had three points and three blocks in 17 solid minutes, as he made his bid to be included in the rotation for Friday's season and home opener against Jackson State.
"We are a real talented team, one through 10," said Strawberry. "We can all play. ... We're ready to get this going. We've been ready for this for a long time."
CARLETON-Jean-Marie 1-1 0-0 2, Doornekamp 1-2 0-1 2, Smart 6-15 6-6 22, Ross 3-10 0-0 7, Jeanty 7-14 0-0 18, McCleery 0-0 0-0 0, Bell 1-4 0-1 3, Turnbull 0-6 0-0 0, Marshall 0-0 0-0 0, Ross 0-1 0-0 0, Stewart 3-3 0-0 6, Saunders 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-56 6-8 60. MARYLAND-Garrison 2-5 3-4 8, Caner-Medley 2-11 7-8 11, Ibekwe 2-4 6-6 11, Gilchrist 1-3 0-0 3, McCray 7-11 2-2 17, Strawberry 3-5 3-3 10, Gist 6-7 1-4 13, Henry 0-0 0-0 0, Grinnon 1-2 0-0 3, Jones 4-6 1-2 9, Bowers 0-2 3-4 3, Fofana 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 28-56 27-35 89. Half: Maryland, 45-29. 3-point goals-Carleton 10-30 (Jeanty 4-8, Smart 4-7, Ross 1-6, Bell 1-1, Ross 0-1, Doornekamp 0-1, Turnbull 0-6), Maryland 6-14 (Garrison 1-1, Grinnon 1-2, Strawberry 1-2, McCray 1-2, Ibekwe 1-1, Gilchrist 1-1, Jones 0-2, Caner-Medley 0-3). Fouled out-Jean-Marie, Doornekamp, Stewart. Rebounds-Carleton 27 (Smart 6), Maryland 40 (McCary 9). Assists-Carleton 17 (Smart 7), Maryland 19 (Strawberry 5). Total fouls-Carleton 23, Maryland 13. A-17,950.
Next for Maryland
Matchup: Jackson State vs. Maryland in season opener
Site: Comcast Center, College Park
When: Friday, 8 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)