Gist paces Terps in exhibition

Maryland 89 Virginia Union 59

College basketball


COLLEGE PARK -- After just two exhibition games, we still don't know all that much about the Maryland basketball team, but it's probably safe to say at least three things.

The Terps can shoot three-pointers.

They still don't know who their point guard is going to be.

Sophomore James Gist is growing up awfully fast.

Maryland didn't exactly dominate in an 89-59 victory last night over Virginia Union at Comcast Center, despite what the final score would indicate, but the game did contain just enough moments of athletic brilliance to make you forget most of the bad.

Gist, the 6-foot-8 forward from Good Counsel, finished with 17 points, and he also grabbed 10 rebounds, but two of his dunks were the plays that lingered long after the final horn. In first half, he posted up 8 feet from the basket, then turned to the rim after getting an entry pass, and in one fluid motion, he dunked over two flatfooted defenders.

"I knew where I was on the court, and as soon as I caught the ball, I made my move," Gist said. "I know I can jump, so it's just a matter of finishing. ... I think this year I just have a better idea of what to expect out there. I feel more confident in myself."

In the second half, Gist again brought the crowd to its feet with a powerful, two-handed flush on a fast break. For the game, he finished 6-for-8 from the field and also blocked three shots.

"James is progressing," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "He's fine. It's a process. He's only a sophomore. It used to be OK to be a four-year player. We won a lot of games with guys who played four years here."

Still, despite Gist's presence in the low post, Maryland didn't exactly pull away from the Panthers (who shot just 30 percent on the night) until the second half, when Nik Caner-Medley, Mike Jones and Chris McCray combined for six three-pointers during an eight-minute stretch. The Terps finished 7-for-14 from behind the three-point line and shot 63 percent after halftime to turn a close game into a blowout. McCray led the Terps with 18 points, and Jones added 13, while Caner-Medley had 12.

Maryland was never seriously threatened by Virginia Union, but it wasn't exactly pretty, especially early. The Terps turned the ball over seven times in the first eight minutes - including four times in five possessions during one ugly stretch - and the Panthers grabbed an 11-10 lead with 12:20 left in the first half.

But as shaky as the Terps' offense looked at times, the Panthers did have something to do with it. Virginia Union, which won 30 games a year ago en route to winning the NCAA Division II national championship, handled the Terps' press admirably, and they also frustrated Maryland's ball-handlers, forcing 15 turnovers in the first half.

It wasn't a stellar night for Maryland point guard D.J. Strawberry, but Williams said that's to be expected right now. Strawberry, who is less than a year removed from a major knee injury, moved well on defense, and he was able to convert two nice drives to the basket, but he struggled considerably at times with his decision-making. Strawberry had six turnovers, including one on a fast break where he tried to throw a behind-the-back pass to Gist that was picked off by the Panthers.

"He was shaky early, but that's going to happen," Williams said, pointing out that Strawberry also had five assists and two steals. "He's very competitive. You can't shake D.J. He'll make some mistakes because he's not a natural point guard, but he's really tough to play against."


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