- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Maryland center Will Bowers hit the late go-ahead shot against Temple on Saturday after guard Mike Jones pumped in 21 points. Two sophomore reserves once seemingly stuck on the bench became unlikely heroes.

The Terrapins’ second wave is rising for Maryland (10-4, 1-2 ACC), which meets Virginia (9-5, 0-4) tonight at Comcast Center. As injuries continue to bedevil Maryland with guards Chris McCray (bruised tailbone) and D.J. Strawberry (sprained knee) questionable and the frontcourt’s rebounding remains spotty, the Terps are relying more on their top reserves.

Indeed, Maryland’s starters were overshadowed by its reserves during recent losses at No. 3 Wake Forest and No. 6 North Carolina. Jones combined with forward Nik Caner-Medley (35 points) as the only scoring threats against Temple, offsetting the other four starters, who combined for just 14 points. With forward James Gist and Strawberry becoming interchangeable with the starters and Jones and Bowers earning extensive minutes, Maryland is now nine deep at midseason.

The reserves “looked more energetic at times out there than the starters,” coach Gary Williams said. “I like the way Mike Jones showed emotion on Saturday when he made those shots. Will Bowers looks assertive out there, and you can see the confidence coming. You like all those things with your team, and hopefully that’s a good sign that we’ll get better as the year goes on.”

Confidence had been the missing element for Jones and Bowers.

Jones, a heavily recruited prep player out of Thayer Academy in Braintree, Mass., averaged 4.9 points in 10 minutes a game as a freshman at Maryland. Courtside students marveled at Jones’ long-distance shooting, but the rest of his game lagged behind. Williams made Jones improve his defense and ballhandling before giving him more playing time.

“I was still trying to figure out my role last year,” Jones said. “Things didn’t go the way I thought it would go. … [There were a few] questions here and there. Those questions were in my head, too. I knew I just had to get into a rhythm with the team.”

Jones saved the Terps in a 90-88 overtime victory over Florida State on Dec.19 with a go-ahead 3-pointer. However, he played sporadically until he scored nine points in 13 minutes at Wake Forest. Jones then converted four of six 3-pointers en route to 21 points in 19 minutes against Temple. Suddenly, he’s a big part of the rotation as Maryland’s outside shooting has otherwise slumped.

Bowers, from Archbishop Spalding in Severn, Md., averaged 0.8 points in 5.1 minutes a game last year as he impressed teammates with his play in practices. After center Hassan Fofana left the team last month, Bowers blossomed, playing at least nine minutes in nine straight games. Bowers only averages two points, but he has 31 rebounds over the last seven games and has made several timely assists. Comcast Center even has a “Bowers Power” cheering section.

“I really get a kick out of people judging Will Bowers and Mike Jones based on their freshman years,” Williams said. “We’re 14 games into their sophomore year, and they are doing really well. A lot of people had them written off because they didn’t play a lot last year. There is a history around here of guys improving as they go through the program.”

Guard John Gilchrist no longer yells at teammates who make mental mistakes. Instead, the reserves are yelling defensive audibles.

“You get confidence, and it makes you come out and play at another level that sometimes you didn’t believe you could play before,” Gilchrist said. “I always knew that these guys could play at this level. They had to find it in themselves. Sometimes I’d hear reports [I’m] so critical of teammates, but if you see the potential a teammate has, all you can do is wait for it to surface. Once it surfaces, you don’t have to say anymore.”

The Terps now are playing starters few fewer minutes a game than earlier this season. The new mesh should allow Maryland to finish stronger.

“The beginning of the season we had a lot of guys playing 30-plus minutes, and it seemed to tire them out a little bit,” Jones said. “The [reserves] have a lot more energy and can see a lot more things from the bench.”

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