- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 28, 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Maryland’s performance Friday night was so impressive, even normally intense coach Gary Williams cracked a smile in the second half.

What was supposed to be the 13th-ranked Terrapins’ first competitive contest turned into a laugher. Point guard John Gilchrist routinely changed gears while fluidly running the offense, and Maryland’s defense, particularly on the perimeter with rangy guards Chris McCray and D.J. Strawberry, smothered No. 25 Memphis in an 84-61 rout.

“Defensively, we just went in there and gave it our all,” said McCray, whose team recorded 14 steals — many resulting in layups — and caused 21 turnovers. “If we go out there and play like that the rest of the year, I don’t think anybody can beat us.”

The Terps were particularly aggressive on perimeter defense, forcing the Tigers’ offense to break down. Memphis shot 29 percent from the floor and made three of 20 (15 percent) 3-pointers. Maryland outscored Memphis 32-6 on turnovers and 24-4 on fast breaks.

“Coach gave us a great scouting report,” said McCray, who scored 16 points. “We knew they were weak passers. He just told us to get up in the passing lane and try to get steals. That’s what we did.”

After giving Memphis the blues, Maryland (3-0) will face a more formidable foe Tuesday when it visits No. 20 Wisconsin. The Badgers will try to make it a physical battle, limit fast breaks and turn it into a halfcourt contest.

“Our mistakes weren’t exposed sometimes because [Memhpis] didn’t do anything necessary to try to exploit us,” said Gilchrist, who had 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. “Against a good team like Wisconsin, they are definitely going to show our weaknesses. We have to come out and tighten up.”

Memphis had success early with offensive rebounding and work in the post. However, that changed when Maryland’s James Gist came in. The wiry, quick 6-foot-8 freshman sealed off the paint and blocked two shots to go along with seven points and five rebounds.

“I just wanted to add in intensity, play defense and get rebounds,” Gist said. “I just came in with intensity and stuff just opened up. … I never felt uncomfortable. Basketball is basketball to me. I just play the game.”

While Gist gives the Terps inside depth, it is Gilchrist who runs the show.

“That’s a total point guard performance,” Williams said. “He had the rebounds, assists and points, but his ability to look for the quick scores when we had the numbers and then to set up the offense [when they dont have numbers], to me, that always determines how good a point guard is. It seemed like every time we should get into our halfcourt offense, John got us into our offense. Every time we should’ve looked to run, we ran.”

Maryland’s constant defensive pressure and transition attack took the life out of the Tigers, who quit running back on defense midway through the second half and accepted their fate. The Terps will soon meet mentally stronger teams, starting with Wisconsin.

But it was impressive how intense Maryland was even after the game was decided. The Terps extended an eight-point halftime lead to 32 on Gist’s over-the-head dunk off Gilchrist’s alley-oop pass.

“That is what you are trying to get to — a point where if you get the opportunity, you stretch the lead,” Williams said. “You could hear [our players] on the bench. I didn’t have to say, ‘We really have to work to keep this going.’ They were doing the talking about sustaining the effort.”

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