- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Maryland’s basketball players thought they were through with exams after a nine-day break. Instead, the No.24 Terrapins were momentarily and unexpectedly tested last night.

Maryland didn’t put away UNC Greensboro until the second half in an 85-58 victory before an announced 17,950 at Comcast Center. The Spartans (4-6) led 11-8 and stayed close for 24 minutes before the Terps (7-2) finally wore down the visitors.

Maryland used a strong eight-minute stretch midway through the first half and a standout five-minute run early in the second half to put away Greensboro. Though the Spartans countered regularly, they were simply overwhelmed.

“I had to remind them why we’re here — play this game before you leave,” Terps coach Gary Williams said of the Christmas break. “We weren’t very good offensively for awhile. It allowed [Greensboro] to hang around a little bit.”

Said forward Nik Caner-Medley: “When you don’t play a game for that long, it takes a while to get into the flow.”

Caner-Medley led four Maryland players in double figures with 19 points. Forward Ronnie Burrell and guard Jay Joseph topped Greensboro with 16 each.

Maryland travels to Florida State (10-1) on Sunday for its ACC opener. The Terps seem prepared for conference play after already beating two of three ranked nonconference teams, including then-No.1 Florida on the road.

“We’re as ready as anybody,” Williams said. “We’ve certainly been through it. We’ll see if that will help us.”

The Terps’ backcourt continued to improve, but the big men struggled early as the Spartans thrived with 10 second-chance points until Maryland’s second-half run finally silenced them. Maryland had little trouble penetrating Greensboro’s 2-3 zone and dominated when the Spartans switched to man coverage.

Maryland played best after an early timeout when it led just 16-15. Maryland quickly scored nine points that included two dunks and a converted offensive rebound.

The Terps worked the ball inside for high percentage shots before suddenly being shut out from the field for the final five minutes of the first half. Maryland scored only five free throws as Greensboro whittled the 16-point deficit to 42-32 at intermission.

The Terps didn’t reprise their usual early second-half run, something they’ve done often this season. Instead, the teams traded baskets over the opening three minutes as Maryland maintained its 10-point buffer.

However, the Terps’ defense set up a quick 9-2 run, topped by forward Travis Garrison’s monster dunk for a 54-38 lead with 14:24 remaining. Guard Chris McCray buried a long 3-pointer for a 59-40 edge with 13:22 remaining as the crowd started to rumble. Fans soon were on their feet as forward Ekene Ibekwe and guard D.J. Strawberry finished steals with thunderous dunks to fuel a 19-4 streak.

Ibekwe was especially strong in the second half while continuing to command playing time. The freshman scored a career-best 13 points with six rebounds, and his 3-pointer with 7:51 left electrified the crowd.

“Ekene was really active and got his hands on a lot of balls,” Williams said.

Maryland used all 12 players as Williams readied his subs for the ACC grind. Nine players scored and six got at least nine points each.

“You have to have them ready for when you’re playing two times a week,” Williams said.

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