Terps return, regroup for win

In 1st game since GW loss, UM beats UNC-Asheville, 96-72, to open homestand

December 13, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - It had all the makings of an extremely uncomfortable 15 minutes for the Maryland basketball team.

Despite two 12-0 runs, the Terrapins went into halftime leading overmatched North Carolina-Asheville by only 11. They had just committed an inexcusable mental error by failing to hold the ball for the last shot of the half, and the Bulldogs turned the mistake into a three-pointer at the other end. Terps coach Gary Williams stomped off the Comcast Center court, a fiery lecture appearing imminent.

No such lecture came.

"He really didn't [yell] at all," said junior forward Nik Caner-Medley. "This team is at the point now where we know when we're not playing well. We don't need him to tell us. He can just look at us and we know we have to turn it on."

The 23rd-ranked Terps clearly got the message, scoring the first eight points of the second half to all but put away the Bulldogs yesterday in a 96-72 victory before an announced crowd of 17,950.

Five players scored in double figures for the Terps (5-2), led by junior John Gilchrist's 22 points, and Maryland shot 55.1 percent from the field and 13-for-13 from the free-throw line, just the second perfect performance from the line in team history.

Yesterday's effort, which was lethargic at times, didn't completely erase the sting from the loss to George Washington last weekend, but it certainly helped.

Bulldogs coach Eddie Biedenbach, whose team fell to 1-5, didn't appear to be too impressed. He first remarked that the Terps are "very, very good," but then said, "they're really too free-willed."

Juniors Chris McCray and Travis Garrison scored 15 points each, sophomore D.J. Strawberry added 13 and sophomore Ekene Ibekwe contributed 12.

"We had to regroup at halftime," Williams said. "I like the way we came out at the start of the second half."

Gilchrist was sporting a new haircut, a completely bald look that he said - albeit jokingly - represented "a fresh new beginning." The new beginning could have easily alluded to the second half for Gilchrist yesterday, as he scored 18 of his 22 points in the last 12 minutes of the game.

He started the game not looking for his own offense, taking and making just one first-half shot, a layup in the first minute. He finished it shooting 8-for-9 from the field to go along with seven assists, three steals and one turnover.

"You have to go as the flow goes," Gilchrist said. "In the first half, I didn't see a lot of open looks or I saw a teammate with a better look. You have to get everybody involved, but that option of scoring is always there."

The Terps' lead grew to 85-66, and from there it became an open audition for a Maryland bench that was thinner than usual with Saturday's transfer of Hassan Fofana and the unavailability of Mike Grinnon (fractured tooth).

For players like Will Bowers and Mike Jones, it was the last chance to state their cases for increased minutes before Maryland's Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Florida State on Sunday. It is the first time in the Williams era at Maryland that the Terps break from an exam week with an ACC opponent.

"We're in a stretch now where we can do some damage at home," said Williams, whose team played its first game in nearly a month at Comcast Center, but is now in the midst of five consecutive games there.

Bowers finished with two points and an assist but no rebounds in 14 minutes. Jones made his first shot - a three-pointer off an inbounds play - but then missed his last eight in 17 minutes.

"I really couldn't seem to find my rhythm," said Jones, who planned to come back to the Comcast Center later yesterday or this morning to take more shots.

Said Williams: "He got a lot of looks, and I want him to take those shots."

Jones, a former McDonald's All-American, played less than a minute against George Washington the previous Sunday. Speculation that he is unhappy and could possibly transfer has been prevalent on Terps chat rooms in the past couple of weeks, but Jones disputed it.

"It's not really frustrating," he said. "I just have to understand that at critical situations, Coach does what he has to do. His job [is] to do what he has to do to win games. ... I don't pay attention to outside sources. I just listen to what Coach tells me, the team and my family. There is no other option for me. I am with the team."

Next for Maryland

Matchup: No. 23 Maryland (5-2) vs. Florida State (4-4)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

When: Sunday, 6 p.m.

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

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