- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

The early season schedule is quickly preparing No.12 Maryland for its upcoming ACC grind. After knocking off one ranked team Friday, the Terrapins face another tonight.

Maryland (3-0) visits No.25 Wisconsin (2-1) in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at Kohl Center in Madison just four days after thrashing then No.25 Memphis 84-61 in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic in Springfield, Mass. The Terps were still beaming yesterday over the convincing victory in which they led by 32 points before emptying their bench.

The Terps remember the feeling of winning the ACC title in March as an underdog. Now they’re howling once more for respect in a conference featuring seven Top 25 teams. Beating Memphis indicates Maryland, which earned the No.1 spot in yesterday’s Sagarin computer rankings, again will factor in the national race.

“[Beating Memphis] definitely changed our mind-set,” guard Chris McCray said. “On the plane ride home, everybody was like ‘We played great.’ We played together. Most importantly, everybody scored. Everybody was having fun on the court. Once we keep that momentum up, we can be as good as we want to be.”

The Terps used 21 steals and seven blocks and filled passing lanes to break Memphis’ offense. Coach Gary Williams doesn’t want to make pressure defense a staple, but Maryland’s nine-deep rotation lets the Terps use it whenever they want.

The frontcourt nearly turned the game into a block party with four in the opening minutes of the first half. Wisconsin’s bigger lineup figures to be much more physical, but Maryland now knows it can win even on bad shooting nights.

“That [Memphis] game in the long run of the season is huge because we can look at it as a game that was not just talking about [defense] but showing it,” forward Nik Caner-Medley said. “When you talk about defense, defense, defense, it’s all talk until you go out and do it. We have proof now defense can win a big game.”

The Terps aren’t known as bangers, especially without a traditional center. Forward Ekene Ibekwe is only 6-foot-9, 210 pounds, but Maryland has learned to stay closer to the basket for second-chance points. The Terps are rebounding by committee.

“It wasn’t touch football out there against Memphis — we bang pretty well,” Williams said. “We’re team rebounding this year. I’m not sure we have a guy that will get us nine or 10, but we have some people that can get that for a particular game. We need three or four or five guys to step up every once in awhile and get us nine or 10 rebounds.”

Even the Badgers’ 30-game home winning streak, second in the nation only to Stephen F. Austin’s 31, doesn’t concern the Terps. With a victory last season at No.1 Florida, the Terps relish the chance to bust the Badgers’ streak.

“I don’t think we’re at that point where we’re intimidated,” Williams said. “If a team beats us, they beat us, but we’re not going to back off.”

The Terps like the challenge of playing two ranked teams away from Comcast Center within a four-day period.

“You can use it to continue the momentum,” Caner-Medley said. “Two minutes into the game, if we get two big stops it’s almost like a snap of a finger from buzzer to buzzer.”

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