Deep Terps sink Hokies

Balanced attack helps Maryland end ACC skid, top Virginia Tech, 86-71

February 09, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - It was a win that Maryland needed badly and for nearly 40 minutes last night, the Terrapins played with the urgency and focus that such a situation demands.

Getting back on track after two disappointing losses to Clemson and Miami last week, the Terps got contributions from nearly everyone and played one of their best all-around games of the season to secure an 86-71 victory over Virginia Tech in front of 17,950 at Comcast Center.

Maryland simply had too much balance and depth for the upstart Hokies to overcome. Four Terps were in double figures, led by junior forward Nik Caner-Medley's 21, and Maryland (14-7, 5-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) also got 19 points off the bench from Will Bowers and Mike Jones, who shot a combined 9-for-9. As a team, the Terps shot 52.5 percent.

"We've played to that level in certain games," said junior point guard John Gilchrist, who scored 19 points and had a career-high 10 assists. It was his highest scoring output since he had 28 points three days after Christmas. "Tonight, we were just fired up, ready to go. ... My main job is to get my teammates going. That's what it is all about."

Said Terps coach Gary Williams, who has bemoaned his team's lack of consistency all season: "Everybody played well."

Chris McCray, who was coming off a career-high 23 points at Miami, got the Terps going. He scored 13 of his 16 points to go along with six assists and two steals in the first half, pushing the Terps into intermission with a 42-30 lead.

"I am looking more for my shots," McCray said. "I was just trying to set the tone for my teammates."

In his first career start, freshman James Gist had eight points and seven rebounds. Jones came off the bench for 13 points on 6-for-6 shooting, his second straight strong outing.

Williams, who played much of the game with a small lineup because of early foul trouble to Travis Garrison and the absence of center Ekene Ibekwe (cracked rib), also relied on little-used senior Mike Grinnon, who played 12 minutes and was later lauded by his coach for his defense and his hustle.

Several players described it as the type of performance the team needed after a disappointing week in which the Terps lost twice to teams below them in conference standings.

As he has done several times this season, Williams said the Terps were motivated by the feeling that some people had written them off and the increase in talk that Maryland's streak of 11 straight NCAA tournament appearances could be in jeopardy.

Playing against conference newcomer Virginia Tech for the first time since 1991, Maryland moved into a four-way tie with the Hokies (12-9), Georgia Tech and Miami for fourth place in the league.

And before the final buzzer last night, the Terps' fans were already talking about who's up next. Chants of "We want Duke" filled Comcast Center. The seventh-ranked Blue Devils come to town on Saturday, and a season sweep of the Terps' archrival would go a long way in cementing the team's NCAA chances.

"There is no ruling anybody out this time of year," said Williams, who thanked the "loyal" Terps fans in his post-game interview on the court. "You have to remain positive of our chances."

The Terps watched their 12-point halftime advantage get trimmed to four as the Hokies, who got a game-high 22 points from Carlos Dixon, scored the first eight points of the second half. Williams signaled for a timeout and reminded the Terps how well they played in the first half.

Then Gilchrist and McCray each hit three-pointers, and order and a double-digit Terps lead were restored.

"After last week, you always worry about your confidence," the Terps coach said. "I told them that for the first 20 minutes, we played too good to let that happen."

The Hokies kept it remotely close, shooting 62.1 percent from the field in the second half, but they were unable to get a key defensive stop. A 13-6 Maryland run pushed the Terps' lead to 76-62 with 5:18 left. Six of those points came from Caner-Medley, who shot 7-for-11 from the field and rebounded nicely from two subpar outings.

Jones also did his part in the second half, scoring all of his points in the last 11:17 of the game.

"They did whatever they wanted to on offense, and that's how we lost," said Hokies guard Jamon Gordon.

The Hokies could also look back at an 11-0 Terps first-half run that turned a one-point Maryland lead into a 33-21 advantage with 4:16 play. Gist had a huge hand in that spurt with two monster dunks and active play on the defensive end.

"I started out well on the defensive end and built on it from there," said the freshman. "My offense came around as the game went on."

Gist figures to see more minutes in the coming games. Ibekwe, whose cracked rib was diagnosed on Monday, said he expects to be out a couple of weeks. Caner-Medley talked about keeping the momentum up without him.

Last night, he said, represented a good start.

"The whole cliche of a must win, we try to prepare for every game like it's the biggest of the season," said Caner-Medley. "But this one was big, no question."

Next for Maryland

Matchup: No. 7 Duke (17-2, 7-2) vs. Maryland (14-7, 5-5)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

When: Saturday, 9 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

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