- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

Maryland has found its go-to guy just in time.

Sophomore point guard John Gilchrist might have to carry the Terps as their main scoring weapon if Maryland (12-7, 3-5 ACC) wants to make its 11th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

That’s what the nation’s premier point guards do for their teams — take over the scoring load and spread defenses when the rest of the team is struggling — and that’s what Gilchrist aspires to be.

“I was recruited here to help us win games, and that’s all I think about when I’m on the court,” Gilchrist said. “All you want to do is win, more than anything else in this world.”

Gilchrist had a game-high 26 points in Maryland’s 71-67 victory at Virginia on Wednesday, which kept the Terps from plunging into last place in the ACC.

Over the past several years, shooting guards played the scoring role for Maryland coach Gary Williams, who enjoyed the luxury of silky smooth shooters like Juan Dixon and Drew Nicholas patrolling the wings. This year, Maryland’s young shooting guards — sophomore Chris McCray and freshmen Mike Jones and D.J. Strawberry — have been plagued by inconsistent shooting. Meanwhile, Gilchrist is averaging 14.8 points.

“John’s strong. He’s about 6-foot-21/2, but he weighs about 195 pounds, and he can get in there on the glass,” Williams said following Gilchrist’s eight-rebound performance against the Cavaliers. “Quickness is what’s really important in rebounding anyway, getting to the ball. John can do that.”

For a team whose shooting inconsistency makes each game an adventure, Gilchrist is a bright spot. Maryland is the ACC’s poorest free throw shooting team at 60.8 percent, but Gilchrist is shooting 76.2 percent from the line.

The Terps are a middle-of-the-pack 3-point shooting team at 34.6 percent, but Gilchrist makes 39.4 percent (26 of 66). Maryland shoots a respectable 45 percent from the field, and Gilchrist does a little better at 46.6 percent (104 of 223).

“You hear about how tough the ACC is, and that’s no joke,” Gilchrist said. “Any win in the ACC is going to help because so many teams are going to get bids for the NCAA tournament, and that’s our main goal right now, creeping up in the wins and keep moving.”

Of the Terps’ final eight games, five are at Comcast Center, where Maryland is 9-2. If the Terps can finish the regular season 5-3 or better, they will be in good shape for an at-large NCAA berth. That’s partly because of quality wins over three ranked opponents, including a 69-68 overtime victory at Florida when the Gators were the nation’s No.1 team.

To get to the tournament, Maryland might have to beat No.17 North Carolina, top-ranked Duke or dangerous N.C. State on the road.

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