- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 4, 2003

The Maryland Terrapins have regained their confidence. Now they need to regain their swagger.
Maryland (6-3), ranked 22nd, plays Wagner (4-5) today at Comcast Center after two victories that included a contentious 84-77 win over Georgia Tech on Sunday in its ACC opener. It was the first narrow triumph for the Terps after an uneven start that included four blowout victories and three losses to ranked teams.
"We needed a close game," guard Steve Blake said. "It gave us a lot of confidence."
Blake believed Maryland was lacking the comeback ability that marked last season's NCAA championship, following losses to Indiana, Notre Dame and Florida. He sat grimly at his locker after the Florida contest wondering if the Terps could win tight games with a team that included five newcomers.
But with the victory against Georgia Tech, Blake believes the Terps have started to rekindle their swagger. With Wagner today and Hampton on Wednesday, Maryland could have a four-game winning streak when it resumes ACC play against Florida State Jan.11.
For now, the Terps are fine-tuning their offense and working on their rotation. With only two games since Dec.14, Maryland has been able to work on improving its passing underneath. Center Ryan Randle (14.3 points, 7.6 rebounds) has benefited by guards finding him in mismatches. Coach Gary Williams has stressed patience after sensing the Terps were too hurried while taking bad shots in a 79-67 loss to Notre Dame Dec.7.
"We were really struggling against the good teams early in terms of getting our inside players the ball," Williams said. "You can't beat the good teams without taking that extra pass. Good teams take away your first option."
Freshman John Gilchrist has gotten some time at point guard, with Blake sliding to shooting guard despite recently becoming the 23rd NCAA player with more than 800 assists. Blake conceded he has been impatient when the Terps use a three-guard system because he doesn't control the flow.
"The only difficult thing for me is, I like to have the ball in my hands," Blake said. "In the two spot, I have to wait for someone else to do something."
Gilchrist is part of an emerging youth movement that already has forwards Nik Caner-Medley and Travis Garrison starting. Garrison opened the last two games with senior Tahj Holden coming off the bench. The move gives Maryland an experienced sixth man, with Holden thriving in his former role. Holden scored 11 points against Georgia Tech in 21 minutes with four rebounds, three blocks and three steals after not starting for the first time this season.
"It's nice to have somebody that size coming off the bench," Williams said. "If Tahj is comfortable with it, then I'm comfortable with it. Tahj has played most of his minutes [in college] coming off the bench. He knows how to do it as well as anybody. It's just the ego thing about starting, but in crucial times in games, or the end of the game, Tahj is in there because he's great at inbounding the ball."
Garrison picked up three fouls while playing eight minutes against Georgia Tech after getting eight points and eight rebounds in his first start against Maryland-Baltimore County Dec.23. The Terps are working on Garrison's footwork to prevent him from getting outmuscled underneath to gain fouls.
"You have to learn to play with your feet because if you don't move when the ball moves, the guy is going to post you up and a good player is either going to score or foul," Williams said.
The mix between seniors Drew Nicholas, Holden, Randle and Blake and the incoming group seems to improve every game. The Terps didn't need as much communication last year because they were long used to each other's styles. Now there's much more communication about responsibilities. Nicholas said the freshmen are learning things like switching players defensively.
"You need the combination of new guys, but you can't put it on the new guys to be a good team," Williams said. "Our seniors have been through everything, where for the new guys it's a whole new experience."

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