- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Maryland coach Gary Williams was screaming. The fans were restless. An upset was brewing.

The Terrapins then remembered their inside game. After trying to outrun George Mason, Maryland instead went underneath to forward Nik Caner-Medley and center Jamar Smith for a 79-64 victory last night before 17,950 at Comcast Center.

“Sometimes this team is not going to be pretty,” Caner-Medley said. “I guess there’s a lot of good things that are ugly.”

It wasn’t ugly per se, but it was ragged at times. Maryland’s offense — particularly its fastbreak — was stymied by George Mason’s 2-3 zone defense, but the Terps countered with solid defense and rebounding. Caner-Medley led Maryland with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Smith added 19 points — including his first career 3-pointer — and 13 rebounds. Forward Jai Lewis led the Patriots with 17 points and eight rebounds.

“I’m starting to like these guys,” Williams said. “They compete like that in practice. In the second half, we flew around out there, and we were fine.”

Maryland still hasn’t figured out its eight-man rotation. While Smith and forwards Travis Garrison and Caner-Medley appear set, Maryland rotated its guards and reserves. Point guard Andre Collins made his first career start over John Gilchrist, while Chris McCray began the game at shooting guard. Reserve forward D.J. Strawberry’s nine points and defensive play also were impressive.

“We play well in spurts,” Williams said. “We just need to find the right combination.”

Maryland’s defense also was streaky, though. George Mason found gaps underneath with Lewis and scored regularly outside using four 3-pointers to close within 41-38 at halftime. However, Maryland outrebounded George Mason 49-36, blocked seven shots and scored 20 points on turnovers.

“I told them there wasn’t going to be any meal money at Thanksgiving if they didn’t get loose balls,” Williams said jokingly.

A 9-2 spurt gave Maryland a 24-16 lead before the first TV timeout was taken with 12:25 left in the first half. The free-flowing game didn’t even permit a planned commercial break after four minutes. The Patriots used 3-pointers by guards Lamar Butler and Mark Davis for a 9-3 run to close within three at halftime.

George Mason opened the second half with a 9-2 run that gave the Patriots their only lead at 47-43 with 18:06 remaining. Maryland soon countered with eight straight points and never trailed again.

“It was a tough time for us because we don’t have the experience of coming back in games,” Williams said. “The first half we had bad body language. The second half, after we got the lead back, we weren’t going to lose.”

Maryland’s defense held George Mason to one field goal over 5:34, taking a 57-50 lead with 12:02 remaining. Gilchrist’s 3-pointer, Strawberry’s two fastbreak baskets and Caner-Medley’s two free throws gave the Terps a 66-54 lead with 9:32 left, and Maryland grew the lead to 75-58 with 2:57 remaining with another eight points underneath.

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