- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 29, 2004

No. 24 Maryland prepared for ACC play last night by revving its intensity against an overmatched nonconference opponent.

After a series of lackluster victories, the Terrapins finally crushed a clearly lesser opponent last night. Maryland overran Liberty 112-68 before 17,950 at Comcast Center after leading by 32 at halftime.

Guard John Gilchrist led Maryland with a season-high 28 points, his fifth straight game with 20 or more. Forward Nik Caner-Medley added 20, forward James Gist 14 and guard Chris McCray 13. Guard Larry Blair topped Liberty with 30.

“John was excited early. That helped us,” Terps coach Gary Williams said. “We played with a lot of energy early. We’re pretty good when we keep the energy up for an extended period of time. We hadn’t been doing that.”

Maryland (8-2) faces Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday in its final tuneup before a harsh ACC stretch that begins with visits to North Carolina (Jan.8) and Wake Forest (Jan.11). Gilchrist said it’s time for him to emerge once more as the leader.

“Usually, I wait until the ACC or midseason to step up,” he said. “I guess that’s how I feel now.”

Liberty (1-8) wasn’t expected to test Maryland despite reaching the NCAA tournament last year as a 16th seed after winning the Big South Conference. Instead, Williams’ goal was to get a complete effort and not let an opponent rally again from a large deficit.

“I stressed the idea we have to play hard for 40 minutes,” Williams said. “Let’s face it: Before the game, we knew we were going to win the game, so there’s other things that are really important for this time of year. It’s almost January, and you have to play hard every night.”

Maryland’s offense continued to purr with three players in double figures in the first half alone. The Terps surpassed 100 points with 4:32 remaining. Maryland had 62 points underneath, including 24 second-chance points.

“If it’s a team you should blow out, then you have to blow them out,” Caner-Medley said. “You can’t be satisfied to win by 30 when you can win by 50.”

Maryland never needed its smothering press defense but managed a sticky man coverage without picking up nagging fouls. The Terps outrebounded the Flames 61-30, with center Ekene Ibekwe grabbing 12 to go with his six blocks.

The Terps played their subs extensively to get a long look at their rotation. Maryland often played three or four reserves together once it took a 19-8 lead. The Terps used all 12 healthy players, with recent walk-on forward Gini Chukura appearing in his first game.

Maryland’s top seven seem set with guard D.J. Strawberry and Gist as the first reserves. Guard Mike Jones and center Will Bowers appear to be the second wave off the bench. Both proved steady in lengthy relief appearances, though forward Mike Grinnon also was solid. Guard Sterling Ledbetter played in his second straight game after a token appearance against American on Thursday.

Liberty scored six unanswered points to lead 6-4 early, but that was the end of the Flames’ run. Maryland countered with 10 consecutive points and later led 31-11 after holding Liberty to one field goal over 11 minutes during a 17-3 streak. Maryland finished the half with another 16-1 run for a 52-19 halftime lead.

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