- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The criticism was blunt. First-round talent, second-round attitude, one national columnist wrote. Talks to teammates too harshly, an opposing player said.

Point guard John Gilchrist has responded to the naysayers with 20 or more points in four straight games heading into No.24 Maryland’s game tonight against Liberty (1-7) at Comcast Center. His 21 points and career-best 13 rebounds against Florida State on Dec.19 earned him ACC player of the week honors. Previously, the junior hadn’t scored 20 points in even three consecutive games for the Terps (7-2).

Last year’s ACC tournament MVP is sparking the Maryland offense with penetrating layups, startling assists and occasional 3-pointers. He has offset poor rebounding games by the frontcourt with two double-digit efforts.

As a result, the crowd favorite again is hearing cheers. Gilchrist clearly is the locker room leader on a team that has grown closer because of criticism following two early losses.

“You’re judged by how your team’s playing,” Gilchrist said. “The more you win, [the more] people don’t really have anything negative to say about you. But if you give people the opportunity to poke fun at you and lose games, it’s automatically ‘What’s wrong?’

“Being one of the leaders of the team, you’re going to be open for criticism. They were saying the way I communicate with my teammates at times when I’m in the moment as far as yelling [is wrong], but I’m just trying to motivate them. I just took it like a man. I’ll just keep playing basketball, and everything will even out.”

It already has more than evened out. Gilchrist scored 23 points against George Washington, 22 against UNC Asheville, 21 against Florida State and 20 against American. He should extend the run to five games against Liberty if the starters play extensively.

Gilchrist leads the team in rebounds at 6.1 a game but is more pleased with his 63 assists compared to 25 turnovers. Coach Gary Williams would rather not have a guard be the team’s top rebounder.

“That’s good news and bad news,” Williams said. “It’s great to have a point guard that can rebound like that, but what about the other guys? Where were they?”

Sometimes, Gilchrist wonders the same thing. Usually, he prefers spending the first few minutes setting up teammates before looking for his own shot, but Maryland’s inconsistency has forced Gilchrist to score earlier.

“If I have to attack from the jump ball, I have no problem doing that,” he said. “You have to just play off the team. … As a point guard, you want to get everybody on the same page instead of jumping out of the gate and leaving everybody and everybody’s like ‘What is John doing?’”

Maryland will look for complete efforts against Liberty and Mount St. Mary’s (Jan.4) before resuming ACC play against North Carolina (Jan.8).

“I’m disappointed that we haven’t been more consistent for 40 minutes,” Williams said. “You can have all the Knute Rockne speeches, but players have to get themselves ready to play.”

That means the Terps need to put teams away earlier. AU trailed 48-47 midway through the second half before Maryland’s 16-0 run sealed the 82-61 victory Thursday.

“If we get up 12, instead of having that killer instinct and putting the team away, we lay back, and when they get back into it, then that’s when we go again,” guard Chris McCray said.



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