On road, Ibekwe gains ground


He says hostile crowd fueled career-best game

Garrison available today

College Basketball

December 04, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Three days after a humbling five-point loss at Wisconsin, a couple of Maryland Terrapins were still talking about how tough it was to play at the Kohl Center.

Then, there was sophomore Ekene Ibekwe, who credited the Badgers' crowd for sparking the best game of his career. The 6-foot-9, 210-pound center set career highs in points (21) and rebounds (12), while shooting 10-for-13 from the field.

"I like playing away games," said Ibekwe, who is averaging 11.5 points, seven rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. "I love playing at the Comcast Center, but I love playing where everybody is against you. I love to prove people wrong. I was just hyped for the game. I was just thinking positive about things."

With two of Maryland's top scorers, John Gilchrist and Nik Caner-Medley, shooting a combined 4-for-23, Ibekwe almost single-handedly kept the Terps in the game, scoring 16 of his 21 in the second half.

Terps coach Gary Williams said he was most impressed with Ibekwe's aggressiveness, something that wasn't always there in the Terps' wins over Memphis and Mercer. In those games, the Carson, Calif., native shot a combined 2-for-13 and totaled eight rebounds.

"He was just very aggressive, and that led to his scoring," said Williams. "He got great position a couple of times, and he looked very quick out there. He was our best player."

Ibekwe, who has admitted on occasion that he is more comfortable on the perimeter than he is banging inside, said he still feels a little thin to play center, so his goals are to use his speed and athleticism and outwork his opponent.

Today, that opponent is George Mason as the 12th-ranked Terps face the Patriots in the first game of the BB&T Classic at MCI Center in Washington. No. 11 Michigan State plays George Washington in the second game.

"I've become a little more comfortable," Ibekwe said. "I may be out of position - a lot of guys may be way bigger than me - but when it comes down to it, it's all for the team. I have no problem doing that for my teammates."

Injury report

Williams said yesterday the Terps should have everyone available for today's game. That includes junior forward Travis Garrison, who hurt both his right wrist and his left knee against Wisconsin and was already nursing a tender left ankle suffered against Mercer.

Williams also said backup point guard Sterling Ledbetter, who is yet to play after suffering a slight tear in his right calf muscle during a preseason scrimmage, is 100 percent healthy.

Gilchrist perks up

Gilchrist, who fell to the floor, covering his face, when the buzzer sounded at the end of the Wisconsin loss, explained yesterday why he took the Wisconsin loss so hard. Gilchrist shot 2-for-14 from the field, 1-for-7 from three-point range and 1-for-4 from the foul line.

"Everyone is going to have off shooting nights, but they took me out of my game and I got frustrated and it showed," said Gilchrist. "If I could take back my performance, I wish I could have done other things to help us out."

Et cetera

George Mason's Jai Lewis, a 6-7, 275-pound junior forward who played at Aberdeen High, is the Patriots' third-leading scorer with 14.3 points per game. Mount St. Joseph's Will Thomas, who shared the All-Metro Player of the Year award last winter with former Archbishop Spalding standout and current Connecticut freshman Rudy Gay, has made two starts for George Mason and is averaging 4.8 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. ... The BB&T Classic traditionally includes two teams from outside the area, but Providence pulled out at the last minute and was replaced by George Mason.

Maryland today

Matchup: No. 12 Maryland (3-1) vs. George Mason (3-1) in BB&T Classic

Site: MCI Center, Washington

Time: 1 p.m.

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

Line: Maryland by 14

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