Terps shake slow start, roll into NIT quarterfinals

16-0 run to end 1st half erases deficit as Maryland defeats Davidson, 78-63

College Basketball

March 24, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - When they didn't receive an NCAA tournament bid, some Maryland players spoke as if they wanted nothing to do with the National Invitation Tournament. To them, the NIT might as well have been a four-letter word, rather than a three- letter acronym.

But, suddenly, the Terps seem to be warming up to the idea.

After another slow start, Maryland moved into the NIT quarterfinals with a 78-63 victory over overmatched Davidson last night before 12,126 at Comcast Center.

Maryland (18-12) will play host to Texas Christian on Saturday at noon with a trip to New York's Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals on the line.

It's not exactly where Maryland wanted to be at this time of year, but after enduring three losses to close the regular season and a first-round defeat to Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the Terps are just happy to still be playing.

"We have the mind-set that we want to keep playing." said Terps junior forward Nik Caner- Medley. "We"re in this to win it."

Six Maryland players scored in double figures, led by freshman forward James Gist with 15 points. Caner-Medley had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Ekene Ibekwe had 11 points and nine rebounds.

"I was playing more aggressive than I have been." Ibekwe said. "I'm just happy I helped the team get a win. ... There seems like there's not a lot of pressure on us. We have nothing to lose."

Junior point guard Sterling Ledbetter, who started again in place of injured John Gilchrist (wrist, ankle), had 10 points and eight assists.

Brendan Winters led Davidson (23-9) with 16 points.

After ending the first half on a 16-0 run to forge a 34-34 tie, the Terps scored the first four points of the second half, with the Wildcats being held scoreless for more than seven minutes in a period spanning the two halves.

"Our pressure really helped us tonight." said Terps coach Gary Williams. "That changed the game as much as anything. We"re starting to get aggressive in the way we play."

Said Ledbetter: "Early in the game, I think I was a little excited. I had to say to myself, "Come on, Sterling, settle down." Once I did that, things fell into place."

Davidson tied the game at 50 after its leading scorer, Winters, hit a three-pointer with 12:15 remaining, but the Terps an swered with a three-pointer by Caner-Medley.

Travis Garrison, who missed eight of his first nine shots, culminated a 7-0 Terps run with a jumper that gave Maryland a 57-50 advantage. Later, he made back-to-back baskets to put the Terps up by nine, but the Wildcats fought back.

Winters hit a three and junior guard Jason Morton scored on a layup to cut the Maryland lead to 63-59 with about 6:50 to play.

Baskets by Gist and Garrison put the Terps ahead 70-61 with under four minutes to play. And the Terps closed the deal down the stretch with solid defense and free-throw shooting.

As they did in their first- round victory over Oral Roberts last week when they trailed by 13 in the first half, the Terps came out short on effort and execution. Maryland had seven turnovers in less than eight minutes. Williams fumed and the largest crowd to see an NIT game this season showered the Terps with boos.

And even though the Terps knew how much Davidson relies on three-point shooting, the Wildcats repeatedly hurt Maryland from long distance. Two straight threes from senior Logan Kosmalski spearheaded an 11-0 run. The spurt, which also included a three-pointer from Morton, pushed the Wildcats" lead to 16 with just under four minutes left in the half.

Williams, who jump-started the Terps in their NIT opener by drawing a technical foul, called a timeout and Gilchrist was the first Maryland player off the bench to greet his teammates, who arrived there with their heads down.

After the timeout, Davidson, the Southern Conference regular-season champ, struggled to deal with Maryland's foul-court press and didn't score for the rest of the half.

The Terps had no such problems. Caner-Medley converted a three-point play and Gist got the crowd back into the game by stealing the ball and throwing down a one-handed dunk to pull Maryland within 11.

Ibekwe, who had six rebounds and four blocks by halftime, knocked down one of two free throws and Gist scored five straight points as Maryland crept within 34-29 with just over a minute left.

The Terps pulled even as Ledbetter scored five straight points, as his three-point play with less than three seconds left forged a 34-34 tie.

The Terps didn't trail the rest of the way.

Next for Maryland

Matchup: Maryland (18-12) vs. Texas Christian (21-13) in NIT quarterfinals

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

When: Saturday, noon

TV/Radio: ESPN2/WBAL (1090 AM)

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