- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Don’t count out Maryland just yet. The young Terps have a little fight left in them.

Staring at the growing possibility that their 10-year NCAA tournament run would end, the Terps won a character-check game on the road last night. Guard John Gilchrist scored a game-high 26 points and iced the game with a putback off a D.J. Strawberry missed layup with four seconds left to lead Maryland to a 71-67 win over Virginia before 7,378 at University Hall.

Maryland (12-7, 3-5 ACC) moves into seventh place in the ACC at the midway point of conference action. Virginia (12-7, 2-6) falls into a tie with Clemson for the ACC cellar.

“John Gilchrist, in addition to what he did on the court, he was a great leader tonight, he wouldn’t allow us to lose that game,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “I’ve been on him a little bit about that. He’s just a sophomore, but he’s got to be the leader at that point guard position for us. He was great tonight.”

However, it took a defensive stop — a Strawberry steal with nine seconds left — with the Terps up by just two points to preserve the victory. Guard Chris McCray and Strawberry double-teamed Virginia’s usually sound ball-handler, point guard Todd Billet.

When Billet turned his back on McCray, Strawberry left Virginia’s Devin Smith and attacked Billet from his left side. Billet dribbled the ball off Strawberry’s knee near midcourt and Maryland’s freshman swingman scooped up the ball and went the other way.

“[McCray] was on [Billet’s] right side, so I knew [Billet] was going to have to turn around and come back, and when he did I was right there,” Strawberry said of his game-saving steal. “Luckily, I got it because my man would have been open for 3.”

Williams altered his starting lineup for this crucial game by inserting Travis Garrison, a 6-foot-8 DeMatha product, at power forward for 6-9 freshman Ekene Ibekwe. Garrison played the first three minutes before picking up his second foul and watched most of the first half from Maryland’s bench.

It didn’t really matter Maryland’s power forward was in the first half because it was the Gilchrist show, although Garrison’s nine first-half rebounds were nice. Maryland’s sophomore point guard understood the urgency of the situation better than most of his teammates in the first 20 minutes.

Gilchrist was outstanding in the first half. The Virginia Beach native led all scorers with 21 points in the half on seven of 11 shooting. During a three-minute span early in the first half, Gilchrist scored 10 of his 21 points fueling a 21-2 Maryland run that gave the Terps a 26-14 lead.

For the game, Gilchrist made nine of 21 shots from the floor and finished with eight rebounds.

“Watching the [Kentucky] game the other night just inspired me that much more to come out here and represent these letters that are on my chest,” said Gilchrist, who was one-point shy of matching his career high. “I felt like I was a disgrace to this university by letting the great teams of the past down. I felt like the ghost of this basketball program was haunting me in my sleep.”

All through the first half, Virginia’s student section chanted “Gilchrist, Gilchrist, Gilchrist.” Gilchrist added an exclamation point with three seconds left in the half when he pulled up and drained a 3-pointer from 20 feet.

After he swished his jumper from the top of the key, Gilchrist sprinted down to Virginia’s student section camped behind one basket and unleashed a primordial scream as the Terps took a 43-36 lead into intermission.

Last night was a clear indication that Maryland goes as Gilchrist goes. In his last four games, Gilchrist wasn’t his high-powered self as Maryland went 1-3.

Gilchrist entered this game tied with forward Nik Caner-Medley as Maryland’s leading scorer at 14.2 points a game. The Cavaliers received a full dose of Gilchrist’s offensive repertoire in the first half.

Gilchrist bombed the Cavaliers from long range making three of four 3-pointers. Maryland’s 6-3 scorer broke Virginia down off the dribble and made four of five free throws. This was the fourth time in Gilchrist’s young career that he has scored 20 or more points.

“He was in his own time,” Garrison said of Gilchrist’s performance. “It felt like home to him. He brought us out tonight. All his shots were falling, he was passing the ball well, he was the leader tonight.”

While Gilchrist was torching Virginia’s backcourt, the Terps had their hands full inside with Virginia junior center Elton Brown. Brown, UVa’s 6-9 low-block banger, led the Cavaliers with 24 points and nine rebounds. If it wasn’t for Brown, Virginia probably would have been blown out at home.

Brown paced four Virginia players in double figures followed by freshman guard J.R. Reynolds’ 15 points. Sophomore forward Derrick Byars added 10 points and Smith, a junior, finished with 12 off the bench.

“We didn’t get enough from our veterans,” Virginia coach Pete Gillen said

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