- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2004

A slow pace may be the best way to get ahead of No.12 Maryland. However, the Terrapins don’t expect it to become commonplace despite losing to lumbering No.25 Wisconsin on Tuesday.

“Teams play the way they play best,” coach Gary Williams said. “They’re not going to change their style because they still have to play, too. You can’t just turn the spigot off and play completely different.”

The Terps should discover quickly whether they’ll be able to run freely during two games within 26 hours this weekend. Maryland (3-1) meets George Mason (3-1) today in the BB&T; Classic at MCI Center. The winner advances to tomorrow’s championship game against the Michigan State-George Washington winner, following a consolation game.

During Williams’ 16-season tenure, Maryland usually has preferred a free-flowing game with pressure defense fueling fastbreaks and easier transition points. Wisconsin beat Maryland 69-64 by slowing the pace while the Terps struggled to pass inside effectively.

Guard John Gilchrist admittedly was too impatient, forcing shots inside while making just two of 14 overall. Forward Nik Caner-Medley (two of nine) was unable to get much room underneath. Maryland will try to push George Mason downcourt quickly, and the Patriots may be willing given their sharp 3-point shooting. The Terps know they can’t get bogged down again.

“Sports is all about rhythm,” Gilchrist said. “We had an off game. Everyone’s going to have an off shooting night. They got me out of my game. I got frustrated. I don’t feel like we have anything to prove, but we have to get better.”

Said Caner-Medley: “One thing that we’re real good at in transition is that our big guys can run. Even in the half court, you can use that inside-outside. We’re going to cause a lot of matchup problems offensively. Even defensively, our size and athleticism will help us throughout the year.”

Several Terps said Wisconsin’s herky-jerky pace was too disruptive. They were mentally worn by the end.

“It was a mind game,” Gilchrist said. “It seemed like we were on defense all the time. It was stop and go. It felt like we were playing football.”

Perhaps the one player who liked the slow pace was forward Ekene Ibekwe, who scored 21 points with 12 rebounds. It was the kind of game Maryland needs from him to compete against bigger ACC opponents this season.

“I realize I’m an important factor on the team,” Ibekwe said. “I have to produce. I have to become more comfortable.”

Maryland has won four BB&T; championships in nine years with a 12-6 overall mark. However, the Terps lost both games last year, to No.17 Gonzaga 82-68 and to West Virginia 78-77 in overtime.

With two other local teams in the tournament this year, Maryland players don’t want to spend offseason pickup games listening to trash talk from their counterparts.

“[The tournament’s] good for area bragging rights,” Gilchrist said. “The other schools see so much about Maryland on TV and in the newspapers. They want to get their shot at Maryland.”

After tomorrow, the Terps will take a breather for exams and the holidays. Maryland faces North Carolina Asheville on Dec.12 before meeting Florida State on Dec.19 in its ACC opener. The Terps will play just four times over 29 days before resuming twice-weekly games Jan.4.

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