Terps surge past American

16-0 UM run in second half breaks up tight game, 82-61

December 24, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland Terrapins will pack and go their separate ways this morning for a short holiday break and, all things considered, they will be feeling pretty good about themselves.

That's assuming the Terps remember how they finished last night against American University, not how they started. A 16-0 run after the midpoint of the second half helped the 24th-ranked Terps erase a listless first 20 minutes and put away the Eagles, 82-61, before a subdued crowd at the Comcast Center.

"In the second half, we set the tone, we made it happen," said Terps junior point guard John Gilchrist, who led four Terps in double figures with 20 points, his fourth straight game reaching the 20-point plateau. "It was very important we came out of here with a win. It's the worst thing to lose a game and have a lot of time to reflect on it."

Added Travis Garrison: "Now, we can have a Merry Christmas."

Four nights after their bench made up for a subpar outing from the majority of the starting lineup and bailed out the Terps against Florida State, Maryland (7-2) ultimately broke the spirit of the Eagles (5-3) with balance and pressure defense.

Junior forwards Nik Caner-Medley and Garrison scored 16 and 14 points, respectively, and junior guard Chris McCray added 12. Sophomore center Ekene Ibekwe was a missed dunk away from being the fifth Terp in double figures, but he added a game-high 13 rebounds to go along with nine points.

The Eagles got a team-high 14 points from senior guard Jason Thomas, who hit three three-pointers in the opening 5:05, but his scoring - and ultimately the Eagles - faded.

"I think we got worn down," said American coach Jeff Jones, the former Virginia coach and player. "Maryland just kept coming at us and then during that one [16-0] stretch, I think Gary [Williams] saw that we looked a little bit tired and he put on the press and we didn't respond."

The Eagles, who had won five straight coming in but were beaten by the Terps by 31 last year, trailed by only two at halftime and then crept within 48-47 on a three-point play by Thomas with 13 minutes remaining.

But then Maryland rattled off seven straight points, a spurt started when Gilchrist connected with a streaking James Gist for an alley-oop. At that point, Maryland had a 57-48 advantage, its largest of the night, prompting Jones to call a timeout. It did little to disrupt Maryland's momentum. D.J. Strawberry nailed an open three- pointer and then found Gilchrist for a layup in transition. Ibekwe converted inside and Garrison knocked down two free throws to complete the 16-0 run.

"We played a lot better in the second half," said Caner-Medley. "It wasn't anything we did differently. We just played with a lot more intensity. When we play with emotion, that's when we are at our best."

The Eagles were held without a field goal for nearly seven minutes, a stretch Raimondas Petrauskas ended with a basket to cut the Terps' lead to 66-50 with 5:55 remaining.

Gilchrist and Garrison then hit threes on consecutive possessions to all but put the Eagles away. Every available Terp - Mike Grinnon and Darien Henry weren't dressed after having surgery this week - played, including junior point guard Sterling Ledbetter, who saw his first action of the season and hit one of two free throws in the final minutes for his first Maryland points.

"We are pretty good when we are going at both ends and I thought we did that in the second half," said Williams, who is now 9-0 against the school that gave him his first head coaching job. "This is always a tough day to play, the day before kids get home. But I can't let that matter. ... I don't think anyone played well in the first half."

In his post-game news conference, Williams even asked the media, "Who played well in the first half?" There was no response.

The Eagles came out and hit seven of their first nine shots. Then after Maryland went up by four on a three-pointer by Gilchrist, the Eagles strung together a 10-0 run and led by six with seven minutes to play in the half. The Terps needed a closing 9-2 run to secure a 36-34 edge heading into intermission.

"I think we may have been too relaxed, too nonchalant," said Caner-Medley. "It's unacceptable to come out and play like that. It was a wake-up call."

After a two-day break to celebrate the holidays, the Terps will head back to College Park in time for a Sunday evening practice. On Tuesday, they will resume their schedule against Liberty. Williams admitted that the team's first half will be on his mind until then.

"There's some things I have to figure out about this team," said Williams. "Hopefully, I'll have some answers."

American Min. FG FT Reb. Ast. PF Pts.

Okpwae 28 4-8 3-6 5 0 1 11

Cresnik 28 2-7 0-0 0 1 5 6

Thomas 27 5-10 1-1 1 0 3 14

Ingram 35 5-13 1-3 6 3 4 12

Lekavicius 27 1-5 1-2 3 5 1 3

Lewis 18 2-3 0-0 9 1 2 4

Billbe 12 1-3 0-0 0 0 0 2

Weinstein 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

Graham 8 1-1 0-0 0 2 0 2

Petrauskas 12 2-2 1-2 1 1 0 5

Eitutavicius 2 1-1 0-0 0 0 1 2

Lay 2 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0

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