- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 23, 2003

It got so ridiculous inside Comcast Center last night that Maryland fans gave a mock cheer when American scored its second basket of the evening. Of course, that only cut the Terrapins’ lead to 25 late in the first half.

The Terps opened the season with a 79-48 thumping of the Eagles. The blowout was expected, but the proportion was not.

Maryland scored 25 straight points in the first half and led 35-8 at the break. The eight-point first half was the lowest by a Maryland opponent since 1971, in the pre-shot clock era, when the Terps led South Carolina 4-3 at intermission.

Maryland’s offense stuttered at times, but the defense was at full throttle. It held AU to four first-half field goals and created 23 turnovers — including 10 steals — overall. The Terps responded to their exhibition loss on Tuesday to Roanoke of the National Basketball Developmental League by humiliating the undermanned Eagles before a sellout crowd of 17,950.

“We came off a crushing loss last game,” said Terps point guard John Gilchrist, one of four sophomore starters. “We had a lot of anger and we wanted to let off a lot of steam.”

Jamar Smith, Maryland’s lone senior, led a dominating inside attack with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Travis Garrison started alongside on the front line and had a strong effort with nine points and eight rebounds. Even freshman Mike Jones, a highly touted McDonald’s All-American, shook off a sluggish preseason and showed off his deft shooting touch with 10 points in the second half.

Maryland lost four starters from last season, and all prominent players from the 2002 national champions are gone. But the Terps left no doubt who the Washington area neighborhood bullies still are. Maryland should have two more tuneups against George Mason and Hofstra before facing a tough stretch against three ranked teams in December, starting with No.15 Wisconsin on Dec.2.

“We tried to get [into] their passing lanes, bother them and upset their timing,” said coach Gary Williams, whose Terps continued a trend of poor shooting by making one of 11 3-pointers in the first half and six of 22 (27 percent) overall. “We can see the offense is coming along a little slower than the defense. You can get by on defense sometimes if you just work hard enough, but on offense it takes a little longer to get your timing.”

AU (0-1) tied the game at 2-2 on Andres Rodriguez’s running layup with 18:39 left in the first half. So much for the competitive portion of the night.

Nik Caner-Medley scored an inside basket to start a 25-0 run for the home team as AU failed to score for nearly 15 minutes. The Eagles had several shots blocked, missed open looks and melted under the Terps’ pressure defense. Maryland substituted freely to keep the heat on its overmatched foes.

All AU coach Jeff Jones could do was sit back in frustration. The Eagles are expected to contend for the Patriot League title this season and hope to use last night as a learning experience.

“We didn’t shoot well tonight,” said Jones, whose team shot 15 percent in the first half and missed all 10 3-point attempts. “But it wasn’t just that. It is about the mental and physical toughness. The same thing happened two years ago [a 30-point loss]. They came out and jumped on us early, and we didn’t have a response.”

Rodriguez was one the few AU players who didn’t appear fazed by the circumstances, and the senior finished with 13 points.

AU made just one of its first 21 shots. Smith took over on the inside and had a six-point run of his own to make it 17-2 on putbacks. Maryland hopes it was sign the 6-foot-9 Smith is ready to be the focus of the interior game after he spent last season as a role player in a deep, senior-oriented frontcourt.

Ekene Ibekwe, one of five heralded freshmen at Maryland, showed his athleticism with a powerful dunk to push the lead to 29-2. The score came off of the Eagles’ 12th turnover.

The Terps opened the second half on a 12-point run, culminating with Chris McCray delivering back-to-back 3-pointers to push the home team up by 39. Jones provided the biggest lead when he scored the first points of his career on a 15-foot jumper to give the Terps a 66-22 advantage.

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