- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 27, 2005

Maryland’s season of mayhem will end in Manhattan.

The Terrapins shook off another slow start and barrage of 3-pointers to outlast Texas Christian 85-73 yesterday at Comcast Center. Maryland blew a 12-point lead and trailed by seven in the second half, before wearing out TCU with its defensive pressure and grinding inside game to earn the NIT quarterfinal win.

Maryland will meet South Carolina in a semifinal Tuesday in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The winner will face either Saint Joseph’s and Memphis for the title on Thursday.

“Winning the championship would give us something to feel good about,” said Terps forward Nik Caner-Medley, who had a team-high 20 points but no rebounds. “If we win the NIT, coming from [the ACC], it shows we should have been in the NCAA tournament.”

The Terps (19-12) won their third straight game for the first time since Jan. 4, and they have won each in their comfortable home arena against modest competition. Maryland players received catcalls from a crowd of 10,608 yesterday before finally overcoming its errors — including 16 turnovers — to take the lead for good at 65-63 on Mike Jones’ 3-pointer with 7:58 remaining.

Jones busted the Horned Frogs’ 2-3 zone with 18 points by going 7-for-14 from the field, including 4-for-10 from 3-point range as Maryland made 10 of 25 3s. Travis Garrison bounced back from another poor start with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Chris McCray had 18 points, five assists and three steals with six turnovers.

Maryland point guard Sterling Ledbetter had another solid outing with six rebounds, six assists and just three turnovers in place of John Gilchrist, who is out with a sprained ankle and wrist.

The 2004 ACC tournament MVP’s career at Maryland may be done after three years; Gilchrist has indicated he may jump to the pros.

Ledbetter has started all three NIT games, and feels he is ready to be the No.1 playmaker next season.

“The NIT has given me the opportunity to play,” said Ledbetter, a pass-first junior guard whose style contrasts Gilchrist’s score-first mentality. “We are playing more of a team game now. It feels like we are trusting each other more in our offense and defense.”

Maryland coach Gary Williams only said Gilchrist was “hurt,” but was quick to praise Ledbetter for handling TCU’s full-court press for much of the game.

“He’s gained the confidence of the other players, which I think as a point guard is probably as important as anything,” Williams said of the junior college transfer from Allegany Community College. “They believe if they get open, they will get the ball from Sterling.”

Corey Santee led the Horned Frogs (21-14) with 21 points, making five of seven 3-point attempts in the first half. TCU made 9 of 18 3-pointers in the first half, which helped it cut Maryland’s 12-point lead to one.

“I don’t know if it was the noon start or what. We didn’t have any defensive intensity,” Williams said. “We were struggling.”

Maryland didn’t score for the first four minutes of the second half while TCU scored eight straight and built a 51-44 lead on a 3-pointer by Nile Murry. The Terps finally responded with better help defense on the perimeter and they exploited their advantage in the post on offense.

TCU had several chances late to take the lead late in the game. With Maryland ahead 69-68 with 4:02 left, Ledbetter forced a five-second violation on Santee. After Caner-Medley missed a 3, Murry committed a turnover. Caner-Medley then scored off a spin move to start the decisive 9-2 run. Maryland made nine of 10 free throws at the end of the game to ensure a taste of the Big Apple.

“We are going to New York City,” said Caner-Medley, whose airball led to an unscripted alley-oop to McCray to make it 73-68. “I have never played in Madison Square Garden and it’s always been a dream of mine to play there.”

Note — Maryland assistant coach Dave Dickerson will interview for the Tulane head coaching job next week. Former Georgetown coach Craig Esherick is also a candidate.

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