Pep talk revives Terps

Hurt McCray heals UM lethargy in rout of W. Carolina

Maryland 87, Western Carolina 57

College Basketball


College Park -- Between halves last night, the players on Maryland men's basketball team had a few minutes to talk among themselves before coach Gary Williams joined them.

As they sat in front of their lockers barely leading Western Carolina, the senior starter who played the least might have said the most.

Senior Chris McCray, the team's leading scorer, sat out with an injured left ankle but helped spark his teammates to an 87-57 win against Western Carolina.

"Chris said we've got to get more in the passing lane, because he saw some openings we could've got steals on, like we usually do, and get out there on the fast breaks, and get dunks and get the crowd into it," said senior forward Travis Garrison, who had a career-high 23 points and 14 rebounds for his second double double of the season. "We're a very athletic, quick team, and we just had to do that. We weren't doing it in the first half."

Garrison scored 16 of his points and grabbed all 14 rebounds in the first half, but the Terps (6-2) still led by only four points against Western Carolina, a 5-6 program from the Southern Conference that has only won two games against Atlantic Coast Conference opponents in 38 tries.

In only their eighth game, the Terps already looked worn as they fell behind - again - to an opponent they outmatched in size and athleticism.

The No. 21 Terps allowed Western Carolina to hang around before Ekene Ebekwe and D.J. Strawberry combined to score 19 points in a 21-8 second-half run.

Their bodies and their egos were bruised following Monday's loss to No. 19 George Washington. It was a concern of Williams heading into the game, and it remained one through the first half.

"It wasn't like they weren't trying in the first half," Williams said. "We just couldn't make good plays. The mental part of it is tough sometimes after a tough loss, and you have to get rid of that somehow. ... The next game, you're not going to play well early."

After heading to the locker room with what seemed to be a precarious 39-35 lead, Maryland outscored Western Carolina 26-10 at the start of the second half to pull away to a 65-45 lead.

McCray, who leads the Terps with an average of 17.1 points, reinjured his left ankle in Monday's loss and did not play. Mike Jones started in his place, and Sterling Ledbetter and Parrish Brown also worked their way into the rotation, spelling Strawberry at point guard.

At one point in the first half, Williams screamed in Strawberry's face.

"I just make mental mistakes sometimes," said Strawberry, who had four points in the first half - all free throws. "Sometimes I throw the ball away and it's my fault. He knows I'm too good of a player to do that."

In the first half, Maryland never led by more than five points against a team the Terps were favored to beat by 25 points. The game was tied four times in the first half, and the Terps trailed by as many as three points with 8:33 remaining.

Garrison started for the second time this season in place of James Gist, who wore a black brace on his right leg after injuring his hamstring Monday. Although Gist played, Garrison made the most of his opportunity with 16 points and 14 rebounds in the first half.

Garrison's basket at the 13:40 mark was the Terps' last field goal for seven minutes until he ended the drought with a basket that tied the game at 24. He was the only player for Maryland to score more than six points in the first half, as the Terps were 13-for-29 from the field.

Western Carolina junior guard Kyle Greathouse, who made five of his team's school-record 14 three-pointers in its 80-64 win over UNC-Asheville on Saturday, hit back-to-back threes in less than a minute to put the Catamounts ahead 19-18.

The Terps made just one of five three-point attempts, and it came from senior Nik Caner-Medley with less than a second on the clock. The basket sent Maryland to the locker room with a 39-35 edge.

It was Maryland's final game before opening conference play against league newcomer Boston College on Sunday. It was also the fourth time this season Maryland pulled itself out of a first-half deficit to win.

Garrison said an early lull won't happen on Sunday.

"I know we're not going to come out like that against BC," he said. "If we do that against BC, we might not have a chance to come back. A lot of guys are going to get up, we're going to have our game faces on, and we're going to go out and play hard."

No. 6 Boston College@No. 21 Maryland Sunday, 8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

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