Terps come out shooting

Scoring abounds as `different' Maryland tips off exhibition season with 31-point rout

Maryland 90 St. Francis Xavier 59

College Basketball

November 06, 2005|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

COLLEGE PARK -- It didn't count for anything, but the Maryland men's basketball players agreed yesterday's 90-59 win over St. Francis Xavier definitely meant something.

It meant the long-awaited, emotional return of junior guard D.J. Strawberry, who missed the final 18 games of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. It was assurance that the Terps can score, as five players reached double digits, and 48 points were generated from the bench. And it was a reminder that their defense still needs work if Maryland is going to contain some of the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"You never really know about your team until you get into a game situation like today," Terps coach Gary Williams said. "You get exposed in some things, which is really good at this time of year. We learned some things about our team."

Whether it's better than last year's 19-win team remains to be seen, but Maryland was visibly different yesterday.

Many of the Terps were stronger, and 7-foot-1 center Will Bowers was a step quicker. Mike Jones, who averaged 7.2 points last year, came off the bench to lead the team with 19 points, including three of four from three-point range. And Bowers was well above last year's averages with a line of 13 points, seven rebounds and a career-best four blocked shots.

Still, Bowers said he would give the team a grade of C+ in its first test of the season. The Terps made 45.9 percent of their field goals (34 of 74) and 66.7 percent of their free throws (18 of 27).

"We learned that we need to get a lot better on the defensive end," he said. "We need to get tougher in terms of defensive rebounds, grabbing the ball, not getting rebounds we have in our hands knocked out, that kind of stuff, not giving teams extra possessions. Our offense is fine."

One of the biggest differences yesterday was Strawberry, who finished with a team-high seven assists and six steals.

"We didn't have that last year," Williams said. "That's the difference. Chris McCray became a very good defensive player. He's more of a solid, stick-with-his-guy defensive player, where D.J. is more like a Juan Dixon. He'll get out of position sometimes, but he'll make that big steal when you need to get the game going again."

Strawberry said he was so emotional before the tip-off he almost started crying. He said he's comfortable with whatever role Williams gives him.

"I love to give my teammates the ball, I love for them to score," he said. "I don't need to score a lot of points. As long as we win, as long as I get my teammates the ball and run the offense like Coach wants me to do, I'm happy with doing that."

Williams' starting lineup consisted of Strawberry, McCray, James Gist, Nik Caner-Medley and Ekene Ibekwe. Williams said he hasn't settled on any five yet.

"Today wasn't the starting lineup for sure we'll have against Fairleigh Dickinson," Williams said, referring to the Nov. 18 season opener. "What I'm trying to do is get them where they don't care who's in there with them. It shouldn't matter."

St. Francis turned the ball over 33 times, and Maryland scored 39 of its points off turnovers.

Maryland trailed until about five minutes into the first half, when two free throws by McCray put the Terps ahead 11-9. They never lost the lead, and Jones' 17 first-half points led them to the locker room with a 49-33 edge.

McCray said the win solidified what the Terps already knew.

"We have a great team," he said. "We knew coming in we've got one of the best teams in the country, no matter what polls or what media says."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

St. Francis Xavier 33 26 - 59

Maryland 49 41 - 90

St. Francis Xavier-Stephen 1-4 7-8 9, MacDonald 3-9 0-0 6, Russell 4-8 2-2 12, Richards 4-9 2-2 10, Gallimore 6-16 4-4 17, MacKenzie 0-0 0-1 0, Baxter 1-3 1-2 3, Reynolds 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-50 16-19 59. Maryland-Gist 4-12 2-2 10, Caner-Medley 2-4 2-2 6, Ibekwe 3-7 1-4 7, Strwberry 2-4 2-4 6, McCray 5-13 2-2 13, Garrison 3-7 4-6 10, Ledbetter 2-3 0-0 4, Jones 7-9 2-2 19, Bowers 5-9 3-5 13, Neal 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 34-74 18-27 -90. Rebounds-St. Francis Xavier 37 (Gallimore 8); Maryland 38 (Garrison, Bowers 7). Assists-St. Francis Xavier 14 (Russell 8); Maryland 18 (Strawberry 7). 3-point goals-St. Francis Xavier 3-16 (Russell 2-5, Richards 0-4, Gallimore 1-5, Baxter 0-2); Maryland 4-8 (Strawberry 0-1, McCray 1-3, Jones 3-4).

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