- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

The adrenaline was long gone. Even the crowd was exhausted. Several starters on both sides were in foul trouble as each offense was stymied.

Maryland’s offense wore out in the waning minutes, but its defense was enough.

Bodies bumping and too often entangled on the floor, the Terrapins thumped No.22 Georgia Tech 79-71 last night before 17,950 at Comcast Center.

“We won that game with our defense,” coach Gary Williams said. “We were shaky at times offensively, but we didn’t give Georgia Tech too many open looks.”

Maryland (13-5, 4-3 ACC) should re-enter the Top 25 polls today after also beating No.2 Duke on Wednesday. However, Maryland must avoid a letdown when it visits Clemson (10-10, 1-7) tomorrow. The Terps are the only ACC team to play twice in three days with the second game on the road.

“We made a pretty good statement this week,” Williams said. “Now we have to continue that. A lot of teams go up and down during the season. Hopefully, this is just the start of things for us in terms of our determination to play well. If we do that, we’re pretty good.”

The Terps are rapidly maturing as the conference race reaches midseason. Maryland didn’t buckle despite a four-minute offensive drought late in the game. Instead, the Terps blanked the Yellow Jackets for 5:46 and expanded their lead to 68-60.

Maryland’s players have learned to rely on one another. Forward Nik Caner-Medley scored 11 of the Terps’ opening 18 points and led the team for the sixth straight game with 19 overall. Just as influential in the Maryland victory was forward Travis Garrison, who had a career-high 15 rebounds.

The Terps also benefited from guard John Gilchrist’s play. He committed only one turnover against a pair of aggressive guards who seemingly converted every Maryland mistake into a fast-break basket. Guard Chris McCray’s steely 8-for-8 free throw shooting kept Georgia Tech from pulling ahead after a late 8-0 run.

“It’s nice if Nik can get 25 every game, but in college basketball you can take one guy out of the game,” Williams said. “We had to go other places, and other guys came through.”

The Terps went deep into their lineup and kept finding success. Four players scored in double figures. Seven made significant contributions. Caner-Medley said Gilchrist’s transition from go-to scorer to point guard has been the difference in the team’s recent surge.

“John’s really bought into the fact that he can trust his teammates and he doesn’t need to score 20 points for us to win,” Caner-Medley said. “Getting other players involved makes everybody feel better on the court and makes us a better team.”

Both offenses were fueled by the crowd, which clearly was the loudest it has been this season. Each tried to outdo the other’s precision passing. Sometimes there were easy dunks, sometimes the ball went into the crowd. Either way, neither team was about to slow down.

“They wouldn’t back down, so you can’t back off,” Garrison said. “You have to keep going at them.”

Trailing 44-34, the Yellow Jackets tried to overrun the Terps at the start of the second half. With center Luke Schenscher back after missing the last 15 minutes of the first half with two fouls and guard Will Bynum playing with three fouls, Georgia Tech first went inside to Schenscher. The Australian center scored 10 points in a seven-minute span as the Yellow Jackets closed to 57-50 with 11:51 remaining.

Georgia Tech eventually scored eight straight points to pull within 63-60.

And then the staredown began. Maryland scored the only two points over the next four minutes. Georgia Tech later managed only a layup and two free throws, but Maryland’s momentum was rising.

“I’m just glad we had the lead so the stalemate was in our favor,” Gilchrist said.

Maryland capped another strong free throw shooting night (22-for-30) with four in the final minute to seal the game.

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