Terps claw past No. 6 Eagles

Ibekwe scores 21 to lead No. 21 Maryland's upset in BC's conference opener

Maryland 73, Boston College 71

College Basketball


COLLEGE PARK The biggest question heading into last night's game might have been how the Maryland men's basketball team would start - not necessarily how it would begin the game against Boston College - but how the Terps would begin their Atlantic Coast Conference schedule against an unfamiliar ranked team.

Not only did Maryland start strong, but it also played a complete game and finished with a 73-71 win over the No. 6 -ranked Eagles, as students and fans - part of a packed, raucous Comcast Center crowd of 17,950 - jumped the black metal gates and stormed the court.

Senior guard Chris McCray, who missed the last game with an injured left ankle, hit both free throws with 7.5 seconds left to play, giving Maryland a 73-68 lead that Boston College would never overcome.

"We've played OK against the ranked teams, but tonight was important." Terps coach Gary Williams said. "We needed this win because it's a league game but also to give us the confidence we can play against this level of team."

It was the Eagles" debut game in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the first time the teams had played each other since 1990.

These teams, though, with their menacing looks and harsh words, played last night like they have hated each other for years.

For Boston College, it was a chance to make an early statement that indeed, the Eagles would raise the level of competition in the ACC. For No. 21 Maryland, it was a chance to upset the sixth-ranked team in the country and take the first step toward proving this year's team is better than last year's.

In the end, it was Maryland's gritty defense from its top two defenders that made the difference. The game was tied at 62 when McCray stole the ball and heaved it across the court to Strawberry, who drove in for an uncontested layup and the 65-62 lead with 3:55 remaining. With 1:49 left, McCray completed a three-point play that put Maryland ahead 68-64.

McCray finished with 16 points and five assists, and he was 7-for-8 from the free-throw line.

'He played 38 minutes, that's what amazed me, that he could be out there that long with that level of play." Williams said. "It was pretty intense out there every possession."

Maryland had been concerned about Boston College's strong inside game, which is led by 6-foot-7 forwards Craig Smith and Jared Dudley, two beefy players each weighing more than 225 pounds. Their ability to work the ball inside in previous games and draw fouls had been a point of emphasis for Maryland heading into the game, as the Eagles had gone to the free-throw line blank more than their opponents.

Maryland countered, though, with its own inside game, and Travis Garrison and Ekene Ibekwe - who led the Terps with 21 points -combined for 10 of the Terps" first 12 points in the second half. Their efforts pulled the Terps ahead 47-44 with 12:14 left to play.

After sitting out the final 11 minutes of the first half, junior point guard D.J. Strawberry re-entered the game to run the offense. He finished with four points and four assists after playing the entire second half.

Emotions were heated, as Ibekwe and Smith exchanged words in the second half, and an official also spoke to McCray and Dudley early in the game. Mike Jones fell backward as he hit a three-pointer that put Maryland ahead 54-53 with 8:19 left, and was trash-talking to Sean Marshall about the play as they ran down the sideline.

Maryland had earned a reputation for its slow starts this season, but last night the Terps matched Boston College's intensity and aggressiveness from the tip-off. The game was tied four times in the first half, and Maryland never trailed by more than a basket. A dunk by Ibekwe with less than a minute remaining in the half sent Maryland to the locker room with a 35-33 edge. Ibekwe's 15 points led Maryland in the first half.

The Terps have three point guards and used all of them in the first half. Strawberry took a seat around the 11-minute mark, shortly after Williams screamed at him not to make a mistake, and he didn't re-enter in the half.

Williams could be heard across the court as he yelled: "Run the offense! Run the play!'

Parrish Brown, a junior-college transfer who has been making steady progress learning the offense, took his place, and senior Sterling Ledbetter ended the half as Strawberry watched from the bench with a scowl on his face and a Gatorade towel draped around his neck. Still, Maryland only had five assists in the first half.

American @No. 21 Maryland

Dec. 23, 8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

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