- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 12, 2004

A schedule that has Maryland playing just once in two weeks prompted coach Gary Williams to return to the “little things” in practice after the Terrapins lost two of their last three games.

Covering shooters, shooting free throws and improved ballhandling and rebounding were emphasized in practices leading up to today’s game against North Carolina Asheville (1-4) at Comcast Center.

Maryland missed late chances in two recent losses, including a 101-92 defeat by George Washington on Dec.5, so the Terps know they must tweak their game before opening ACC play against Florida State on Dec.19.

Unlike the normal grind of playing twice weekly, the Terps are playing just four games over 29 days because of final exams and the holidays. Maryland can practice without immediately worrying over coming opponents — much like preseason workouts, though the Terps can better see their deficiencies after six games.

“We’re working on little things,” forward Nik Caner-Medley said. “Any time you have a chance during the season, you’re [usually] scouting the other team. We got a chance to work on our defense and offense and improve little things; nothing major.”

Said forward James Gist: “It’s just little things in the game that we should be doing that we’ve been working on.”

The Terps have worked more on free throw shooting. Maryland converted just 54.5 percent in its past three games after making 65.8 percent in the opening three. The Terps were sometimes bedeviled by foul shooting last season, when they converted 63.1 percent.

“Sometimes, if you miss a few, it becomes something mental,” Caner-Medley said. “If you take anybody on this team and put them on the free throw line with a free conscience, they’ll make 70, 80 percent of their free throws. If they’re missing them in the game, it’s mental. … You can’t harp on it too much, because that can only make it worse.”

The Terps aren’t pressed for points, though. Maryland is averaging 84 a game and has topped 90 three times.

“Scoring’s not going to be a problem for us,” Williams said. “We’ll find a way to score. What you want to do is be a good defensive team and have the ability to be versatile enough to score off your defense, your half-court offense, your transition.”

But Maryland is allowing more than 100 points for the first time in 4 seasons, which perplexes Williams. While GW’s victory propelled the Colonials to a No.21 ranking, the Terps aren’t used to opponents outgunning them in a up-tempo game.

“It was disappointing we didn’t play good defense that day,” Williams said, “but if that’s a one-day thing then OK — that happens during the season.”

Meanwhile, two Maryland players disputed GW guard J.R. Pinnock’s assertion that Terps guard John Gilchrist improperly bossed teammates at game’s end. Pinnock claimed he was merely trying to help Gilchrist, but Caner-Medley and Gist said the comments were ill-advised.

“You can’t make a comment like [Pinnock] made unless you’re a teammate,” Caner-Medley said. “[Pinnocks] saying how [Gilchrist] went too far. If you ask any of [Gilchrists] teammates, he didn’t, so maybe it’s just a perspective. As far as this team is concerned, we love every minute of it.

“Sometimes in the heat of the game, he shows a lot of his emotion, but that’s a good thing. His teammates want him to continue that. It’s a form of leadership having other people feed off you.”

Added Gist: “Being one of the leaders on the team, it’s right for [Gilchrist] to do that. Somebody has to push us and let people know when they’re messing up. … How other people look at it, because they’re not around him as much, they probably wouldn’t know how he is, but John is a real good person and the emotion he brings helps the team a whole lot.”

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