- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 2, 2004

When the big men produce, No.12 Maryland’s problems are supposed to be minimal. Instead, the Terrapins were let down by their backcourt in their first loss.

No. 25 Wisconsin laid a trap for Maryland point guard John Gilchrist on Tuesday night, and the junior never eluded it. Gilchrist made just two of 14 shots and didn’t score from the field in the last 23 minutes in Maryland’s 69-64 loss in Madison, Wis.

A big effort by forward Ekene Ibekwe (21 points, 12 rebounds) wasn’t enough for Maryland to overcome its backcourt woes against a team just as fast and determined with a monstrously loud crowd behind it.

“It was one of those nights where [Gilchrist] doesn’t put his best game out there, but Wisconsin plays good defense,” coach Gary Williams said. “They took him out of his game. They put a lot of people in the paint when [Gilchrist] drove. He couldn’t get through there.”

Gilchrist doesn’t fear challenges; after all, he led Maryland to three postseason upsets and the ACC tournament title last spring. He smiled broadly during pregame introductions at Wisconsin, ready to silence the hostile arena before a national television audience. But he sat slumped at his locker afterward, weary of shouldering perhaps too much of the offensive burden while failing to slice through the defense.

“We had opportunities,” Gilchrist said. “We just didn’t finish. We just didn’t make the shots.”

Maryland’s opportunity to tie ended in the final seconds after the sort of improbable late comeback that marked last season’s team. Forward Nik Caner-Medley was stripped of the ball while preparing for a 3-point shot.

“We had the ball with 17 [seconds] left down three, so we put ourselves in a chance to win the game,” Williams said. “You try to stay in there against good teams and hopefully win it at the end.”

At least Maryland’s frontcourt showed it can succeed against a physical team, though the Terps were sometimes bottled up in the lane. Ibekwe and forward Travis Garrison (11 points, seven rebounds) each dominated at times but only in spurts. The Badgers’ more deliberate pace kept Maryland from running freely too often.

The Terps converted only 42 percent of their shots but held the Badgers to 40 percent with their pressure defense and had a 42-31 rebounding edge. After decidedly better free throw shooting than last season in the first three games, the Terps shot only 7-for-13 from the line. Wisconsin was 21 of 30, getting to the line by taking advantage of some matchups in which the Terps were too slow to cover. Guard Chris McCray and Ibekwe fouled out in the final 30 seconds, and Caner-Medley had four fouls.

“You hold them to 40 percent from the field, you expect to win the game playing defense like that,” Williams said. “We weren’t any better from the field. It came down to we shot 7-for-13 from the line.”

Maryland (3-1) next will meet George Mason in the BB&T; Classic on Saturday at MCI Center, with a chance to play No.11 Michigan State in Sunday’s championship or consolation game.

The Terps’ swagger after beating then-No.25 Memphis State 84-61 last week has been tempered, but stiff early season competition is supposed to toughen the Terps for ACC play against six ranked teams.

“There are not too many teams in college basketball that are going undefeated,” Caner-Medley said of the Wisconsin loss. “You just learn from it.”

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