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 gained a crucial 86-71 victory over Virginia Tech in front of 17,950 at Comcast Center.

Playing against conference newcomer Virginia Tech for the first time since 1991, Maryland improved to 14-7, 5-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and moved into a four-way tie with the Hokies (12-9), Georgia Tech and Miami for fourth place in the league.

A loss would have been a major blow to the team's chances of making a 12th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, but now the Terps enter Saturday's showdown with archrival Duke here with a golden opportunity to solidify their NCAA candidacy.

It wasn't easy for stretches, but Maryland had too much depth and balance for the Hokies to overcome. After two straight subpar outings, junior forward Nik Caner-Medley scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Junior point guard John Gilchrist had 19 points and a career-high 10 assists. His backcourt mate, junior Chris McCray, played his second straight strong game, with 16 points, including 13 in the first half.

In his first career start, freshman James Gist recorded a line of eight points and seven rebounds, and Mike Jones came off the bench for 13 points on perfect 6-for-6 shooting. Terps coach Gary Williams also got big minutes and plenty of hustle from little-used senior Mike Grinnon.

"Offensively, we did a great job of getting good looks," Williams said. "We ran the offense the way we do when we are playing well. We were looking for each other and we shot 50 percent [actually 52.5] because of it."

The Terps led 42-30 at halftime, but then watched their advantage trimmed to four as the Hokies scored the first eight points of the second half. Williams signaled for a timeout and Maryland would again regain the form that it showed in often overwhelming the Hokies in the opening 20 minutes.

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

Gilchrist and McCray hit back-to-back three-pointers after the timeout to again give the Terps a double-digit lead, but they struggled to put the Hokies away. Baskets by Coleman Collins and Marquie Cooke trimmed the Terps' lead to 61-54 with 10:23 remaining.

It was 72-58 with 7:05 left after a modest 6-0 Terps run, and then after a Collins basket, Maryland scored another four consecutive points.

"We've played to that [high] level before in certain games," Gilchrist said. "Tonight, we were just fired up. We were just ready to go."

Carlos Dixon had 22 points and nine rebounds, and Zabian Dowdell scored 17 for the Hokies, who have lost three of four after a five-game winning streak.

The Terps had lost two straight games coming in, the momentum from the Duke and Georgia Tech victories late last month vanishing along with their status as a definite NCAA tournament team.

Asked if it was a must-win, Caner-Medley said, "We try to prepare for every game like it's the biggest game of the season. But it was big, no question."

In the Clemson and Miami losses, the Terps got off to slow starts. And last night, the Terps were slightly hamstrung because they didn't have the luxury of bringing Ekene Ibekwe off the bench. The 6-foot-9 sophomore center, who is averaging 9.0 points and 6.8 rebounds, missed his second straight game with what was diagnosed on Monday as a cracked rib.

Instead of giving Will Bowers his fifth straight start, Williams inserted freshman Gist, who made the first start of his Terps career. But Bowers would be needed and early. Travis Garrison, who has been beset by foul trouble in recent weeks, picked up two in a 1:33 span, his second foul leading to a four-point play by Dowdell.

Virginia Tech took an early 9-3 lead but then McCray overran that lead, almost single-handedly. The junior guard, who scored a career-high 23 points on Saturday at Miami, carrying the Terps down the stretch, scored eight straight Terps points to give Maryland a 16-14 lead.

Maryland extended the lead to 33-21 on an electric 11-0 run started by a soft hook shot by Bowers. Caner-Medley hit a three, Gist got free inside and dunked, and then Gilchrist found a streaking McCray for a dunk that prompted Hokies coach Seth Greenberg to call a timeout.

But the Terps' run didn't end there. Gist threw down a monster dunk off a beautiful feed from McCray, bringing the Terps crowd, which was being encouraged by Gilchrist, to its feet.

Virginia Tech ultimately crept to 39-30 on a three-pointer by Dixon (13 first-half points), but then the Terps scored the last three points of the half. Caner-Medley's follow at the buzzer allowed Maryland, which shot 57.1 percent from the field in the first half, to go into the locker room leading 42-30.

NOTES: Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti sat in his normal courtside seat last night and was joined by quarterback Kyle Boller, who made his first appearance at Comcast Center this season. ... Former Terp Tahj Holden also was in the crowd.

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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