Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Terps Down George Mason

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Tonight, the basketball season truly began for the Maryland Terrapins. They faced an opponent who forced them to find out just how well the team was ready to play. Coach Gary Williams was pleased with the result as his Terrapins defeated George Mason 79-64 before an announced crowd of 17,950 at the Comcast Center Tuesday night.

The first 14 minutes of the game was played at a furious pace, one that clearly favored the more athletic Terrapins. Maryland took advantage of the quick tempo to move out to a 34-22 lead with 6:00 to play in the first half.

George Mason coach Jim Larranaga had seen enough of that and ordered his team to drop back into a zone defense. Coach Williams said, "The zone bothered us, we didn't do a good job against it." Indeed, the Terps scored only seven points during the remainder of the half and allowed the Patriots to draw within 41-38 at halftime.

To begin he second half, Williams said his team "Just flew around out there, and we were fine." George Mason actually move out to a short lived 47-43 lead to begin the half, but Maryland quickly returned the tempo of the game to a blistering pace. The Terps blew out to a 23-7 run over 7:52 to take a commanding 66-54 lead. The Patriots could come no closer than nine points the rest of the game.

Jamar Smith enjoyed his first career double-double so much Saturday night that he did it again tonight, scoring 19 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. Working much of the evening against George Mason's 6'7", 275 pound sophomore Jai Lewis, Smith (giving up 35 pounds), used his quickness and aggressiveness to play him to a draw statistically. More importantly, Smith repeatedly beat Lewis down the court to help fuel the Terps explosive transition game.

Nik Caner-Medley scored a team and career high 23 points, 15 in the first half. Caner-Medley, who made 10 of 16 shots, scored most of his points from close range. He has developed a move when he has the ball on the wing, pump fakes his defender and drives the baseline for a layup or short jumper. He used that move effectively several times time evening.

John Gilchrist, who did not start the game do to an unspecified violation of team rules, did play 12 minutes in the first half but went into the locker room at halftime without a point or assist. Gilchrist turned his and the Terps' game around in the second half, scoring 11 points, dishing our 4 assists, and coming up with 2 steals. Any time Maryland came up with a rebound or loose ball in the second half, which was often, they quickly put it in Gilchrist's hands and it was off to the races for the Terps. When Gilchrist came out of the game in the last minute, Williams shook his hand and told him "You were the best player the last 10 minutes of the game."

Gilchrist's key running mates were D. J. Strawberry and Chris McCray. These two guards may be the best Maryland has had running the fast break since Greg Manning from 1977-81. Both of them have great speed and the knack for knowing when to get out and run, and Gilchrist has the ability to get them the ball. McCray says in fast break situations "Coach tells everybody to just go." In the second half tonight, they followed that direction very well.

Strawberry also drew Coach Williams' praise for his defense, "D. J. Strawberry really ignited our defense in the second half." Strawberry's motor never stops running on either end of the court, although he said, "In the first half, I wasn't playing with much energy. Coach got on me some and told me I needed to play with energy every time I get on the floor. In the second half, I just had to bring everything I had."

Williams liked the fact that his team was tested, and felt they passed the test very well, "We had to dig down, and we did a great job. I was really impressed with our players."

Caner-Medley agreed, "I think one of the biggest steps we took forward today was having to grind out a win. I think this team showed a lot of heart tonight."

The growth of a young Maryland basketball team took another important step tonight. They were challenged for the first time and did not blink. More difficult challenges lay ahead.

Notes from Under the Shell
George Mason is now 0-6 vs. Maryland. Their most recent game before tonight was a 83-80 Terrapin win in the first round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament. How might Maryland basketball history have been different if the Patriots had pulled that game out, which they very nearly did.

George Mason has still never defeated an ACC team. They are 0-2 vs. Duke and 0-6 vs. Virginia.

Patriot Coach Jim Larranaga is stuck at 299 career victories.

Travis Garrison continues to play well defensively, but has not been aggressive enough on offense. Travis, they legalized the dunk a long time ago. When you get the ball down low, may I respectfully suggest you take it to the rack and throw it down! If you don't get the dunk, at least draw some fouls, which won't happen with the fade-away shots or soft layups you have been attempting so far this season.

Maryland only attempted eight free throws tonight, and has only attempted 20 for the season (making 11). Despite the lack of trips to the foul line, the Terps still outscored the Patriots 58-36 on points in the paint and outrebounded them 49-36. Nineteen of Maryland's rebounds came off the offensive boards. That's a good thing, because the Terps' 3-15 performance from outside the three-point line leaves their percentage from beyond and arc at 24.2% after two games.

Coach Williams shortened his bench tonight with a tight game. Strawberry, Gilchrist (usually Collins) and Ibekwe are in the eight-man rotation Williams used tonight along with starters Caner-Medley, Garrison, Smith, McCray, and Collins (usually Gilchrist). Mike Jones, Will Bowers, and Hassan Fofana are not, seeing only four minutes of action between them.

Strawberry did have an embarrassing moment tonight, airballing a free throw in the second half. The sheepish look on his face afterward was priceless.

Maryland's next game is Saturday night at the Comcast Center vs. Hofstra. Game time is 8:00 PM, and the game will be broadcast locally on channels 20 and 54 by the Raycom/Jefferson Pilot network.


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