- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2006

Nik Caner-Medley’s shots weren’t falling as Maryland stumbled through a lethargic first half against Virginia Tech.

Neither Caner-Medley’s shooting woes nor the Terrapins sluggishness persisted after the break. Caner-Medley scored a game-high 23 points as the No.22 Terps toppled the Hokies 81-72 in a disjointed game at packed Comcast Center.

It was the second straight victory for the Terps (13-4, 3-2 ACC), who also received 21 points from senior guard Chris McCray. Yet it was Caner-Medley who was Maryland’s maestro in the second half, helping the Terps turn back the reeling Hokies (10-8, 0-5).

“When they made their run, he basically took over the game for us,” McCray said. “That’s what we need Nik to do for us.”

Maryland remained perfect at home this season, winning its 14th straight at Comcast and vaulting the Terps safely into the top half of the ACC’s parity party.

Caner-Medley, who has led the balanced Terps in scoring five times in the last eight games, again provided a necessary boost. Maryland trailed by a point at halftime, but his efficient play inside helped the Terps put some distance on the Hokies early in the second half.

Maryland had a three-point lead at the under-16-minute timeout, and Caner-Medley’s steal and dunk soon after bumped the lead to 53-46. He shrugged off a 3-pointer from Virginia Tech’s Zabian Dowdell, accepting a smooth pass from James Gist for an easy layup. A baseline jumper and a three-point play soon followed as Maryland built a 64-51 edge.

“I did get some easy looks in the first half, but we know those easy looks are going to fall,” said Caner-Medley, who was 6-for-7 from the floor in the second half. “I’ve been through games where I’ve missed a lot of shots. The most important thing is to run the offense and take high-percentage shots. That’s why they’re high-percentage shots because you miss one, you’re going to make the next one.”

Besides the two seniors, the Terps received strong play from some often overshadowed role players. Gist, making his second straight start, had 11 points and six rebounds and seemed closer to producing a breakout performance. Reserve point guard Sterling Ledbetter logged 10 turnover-free minutes.

Center Will Bowers also left an impression after playing a season-high 20 minutes. Virginia Tech center Coleman Collins scored the Hokies’ first 12 points, but foul trouble and Bowers’ towering presence held him to six points in the final 34 minutes.

Bowers, who added a couple key baskets as the Terps pulled away, clogged the Hokies’ passing lanes and disrupted any chance Virginia Tech had to achieve offensive balance in the second half. The 7-foot-1 junior also prevented Collins from being a rebounding factor as the Terps controlled the inside.

“He came in in the second half in a key situation and shut [Collins] down,” Caner-Medley said. “He couldn’t get anything around the hoop, and we got the key rebounds that we needed from our big men down the stretch, so that was the difference-maker.”

Collins’ second-half struggles put more pressure on guards Dowdell and Jamon Gordon, but a perimeter onslaught reminiscent of Maryland’s losses to Miami and Duke never materialized. Dowdell did most of his damage on drives and scored 21 points, while Gordon picked up two early fouls, appeared hobbled at times and was never much of a factor.

“We really got hurt by Miami, Duke and Wake Forest from outside,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “It was nice to see we did a better job tonight, and we still played pretty good interior defense. It’s hard to take both away.”

Williams was upset throughout the first half as the Terps struggled against the ACC’s snakebit cellar dwellars and could only stomp in frustration as Maryland fumbled away its first possession of the second half.

The burst that followed, which secured Maryland’s second straight win since consecutive losses to Miami and Duke, more than made up for some sloppiness perhaps rooted in the Terps’ six-day layoff.

“I was really upset we didn’t finish early because we had a chance to jump them early,” said Williams, who won his 347th game at Maryland and pulled within one of Lefty Driesell for first on the school’s all-time list. “We did a good job of running our offense early, but we couldn’t finish. Sometimes when you don’t play for a while, that can happen. …

“We had to be tough. We didn’t come out real sharp, and we had to hang in there until we got it going.”

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