Terps going by new script with familiar cast

Without Gilchrist to run show, UM ad-libbing less, playing smarter, Caner-Medley says

December 28, 2005|By HEATHER A. DINICH | HEATHER A. DINICH,SUN REPORTER

COLLEGE PARK -- Ten games into last season, the Maryland men's basketball team had the same 8-2 record it does heading into tonight's 8 o'clock game against Delaware State at Comcast Center.

The team itself, though, is quite different - despite the return of all but one starter.

The early departure of point guard John Gilchrist to play professionally changed the face of Maryland's offense, as junior D.J. Strawberry - a former forward - took over the position. But senior forward Nik Caner-Medley said yesterday that Gilchrist's desire to play outside the system sometimes made things difficult.

Now, the No. 16-ranked Terps are passing more, being more selective with their shots and staying within coach Gary Williams' offense, resulting in the top scoring offense in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"In the past, we had John as the point guard and a lot of times, the way that Coach wanted us to run the offense wasn't necessarily how he felt he wanted to run the offense," Caner-Medley said. "Sometimes that can cause some confusion throughout the whole team.

"Something we've done a little differently this year is just try to really buy into running the plays," he said. "This is a successful offense. There are a lot of options. When you get good, you can get to that second, third or fourth option. The past couple of years, it's been 10, 15 seconds off the shot clock and it's pretty much guaranteed a shot is going to go up. When you play 40 minutes, that can add up to a lot of bad shots."

And Caner-Medley is the first to admit he took some of them last season - a habit he's been trying to break. Caner-Medley, who led the team with an average of 16 points last season, is third on the team with an average of 11.8 points. He said he is more concerned about winning this season than leading the Terps in scoring - a lesson he said was learned from last season's appearance in the National Invitation Tournament.

"From experience, winning is what makes you feel good," he said. "Last year had a lot to do with that. It had a huge impact on the way I look at the game. If you score 20 points, but at the end of the year your team is in the NIT, you don't feel good about it. It's as simple as that. It puts into perspective how important individual scoring is when you go through some things we've been through."

The Terps have made 60 fewer field-goal attempts than they did through their first 10 games last season, but again have made 48 percent of them. Williams said the team is moving the ball better this year, and not just at the point-guard position.

"Everybody has bought into the better we pass, the more shots everybody gets, the better shooting percentage we'll have," Williams said. "As long as we stay that way, I think we can score points. But that can go as easily as it arrives."

Maryland leads the ACC with an average of 84.2 points a game, and four players are averaging double digits. Junior forward Ekene Ibekwe has averaged 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds in the past three games, and Strawberry is averaging 4.9 assists.

"We just share the ball more going inside-out," Ibekwe said. "That's how Coach wants to play. ... That's how we have to play, penetrate and kick."

Still, no team has scored more than 69 points against Delaware State. Although the Hornets are 2-8, they have faced UCLA, Michigan and Northwestern, and they outscored Marquette in the second half before losing, 60-48, on Dec. 22. And Delaware State hasn't played a home game this season.

"This isn't like they've been ducking anybody," Williams said of the defending Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion. "They're a tested team. They were in the NCAA tournament last year. They know what it takes to win."

Caner-Medley said Williams, too, knows what it takes - all they have to do is listen to him.

"Everybody on our team knows what the plays are, knows what the offense is," he said. "You see if somebody takes a shot that's not in the offense, and that's contagious. If you try to consciously do the things Coach Williams wants us to do, I truly believe that's going to make us the best we can be."

heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Delaware State@No. 16 Maryland Tonight, 8, Ch. 54, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM

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