- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Maryland coach Gary Williams wanted the No.13 Terrapins to perfect their inside game and pressure defense last night before possibly facing three ranked opponents in 10 days. Both goals were achieved perfectly.

Maryland downed Mercer 93-67 at Comcast Center with a solid early season effort. The Terps played unrelenting fullcourt defense and went straight to the basket against a pesky visitor that gave Maryland a serious effort for nearly 30 minutes.

“We’re not that far away,” Williams said. “We have to be a little more consistent offensively and defensively. It’s a matter of deciding what we want to be, how tough we want to be.”

Forward Nik Caner-Medley led five Terps in double figures with 21 points and six rebounds. Guard Chris McCray added 15 points and nine rebounds, while guard John Gilchrist scored 14, guard D.J. Strawberry 13 and forward James Gist 10. Forward Will Emerson topped the Bears (1-1) with 21 points after scoring their first 11.

Maryland (2-0) plays No.24 Memphis in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic on Friday in Springfield, Mass. The Terps then travel to No.20 Wisconsin on Nov. 30 and could face No.10 Michigan State in the BB&T; Classic on Dec.5 at MCI Center. Williams wanted two games before that stretch to get his team ready.

The Terps scored 20 points before hitting an outside shot nearly eight minutes into the game. Williams likes his offense to flow underneath, and Maryland worked on getting the ball to its frontcourt. Caner-Medley continued to show added quickness this season when he drove the baseline for layups.

Caner-Medley offset a poor shooting night by forwards Ekene Ibekwe and Travis Garrison, who were limited to a combined eight points. At least the Terps benefited from the frontcourt’s defense, which checked the Bears from coming inside. However, Maryland went to a quicker three-guard lineup in the second half to seal the win.

“We had five-minute stretches where we looked like a great team,” McCray said. “We just have to do it for 40 minutes.”

The Terps spent the entire game pressing the Bears, fueling the fastbreak for 20 points. Strawberry sparked the smothering defense. Gilchrist even stopped a four-on-one break and caused a turnover. Maryland smacked away balls for turnovers regularly.

“The pressure just wears you down,” Mercer coach Mark Slonaker said. “We have one point guard we thought could play with them in [Damitrius] Coleman, but they fatigued him and just took the rest of us down.”

The Terps didn’t go too far into their rotation until the final minutes. Gist continues to spark the crowd with his play around the rim, and Strawberry has emerged as the top reserve guard. Otherwise, the rest of the bench didn’t get much time until the final six minutes. Guard Sterling Ledbetter continued to rest a torn calf muscle, though he participated in warmups after missing nearly two weeks of practice.

Maryland never trailed, building an early cushion with a 9-0 run for a 25-11 lead. Mercer stayed reasonably close, using an 8-0 streak for a 27-23 deficit before Maryland countered with a series of dunks and two 3-pointers to regain control. The Terps closed with 10 straight points for a 49-31 halftime lead.

Mercer used its quickness to score underneath early in the second half, while Maryland shifted to more outside shots. Gilchrist’s two 3-pointers and Caner-Medley’s 15-footer helped Maryland gradually build a 64-45 lead with 12:13 remaining before Gilchrist threw an easy pass to Caner-Medley for a another layup. Maryland’s defense set up three straight fastbreaks to cap a 15-4 run for a 72-49 lead with 9:02 remaining.

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