Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Bring on the ACC. Maryland is ready for conference play after overwhelming yet another nonconference foe.

The No. 22 Terrapins routed Mount St. Mary’s 85-53 last night at Comcast Center. The final tuneup proved taxing for only eight minutes before a 9-0 run soon led to a 22-point halftime lead en route to the Terps’ fifth straight win.

Guard John Gilchrist and forward Nik Caner-Medley led Maryland with 17 points each, and forward Travis Garrison added 15. Gilchrist failed to score 20 points for the first time in six games. Guard Landy Thompson topped Mount St. Mary’s (3-7) with 20.

Maryland (9-2, 1-0 ACC) plays 15 of its final 16 games against conference foes. The Terps visit No.3 North Carolina (12-1,1-0) on Saturday and No.4 Wake Forest (12-1, 1-0) on Tuesday.

The coming heavyweights seemed to distract the Terps, who needed to convert all 10 free throw attempts in the first half to offset erratic field-goal shooting. Maryland finally focused midway through the first half only to look sloppy again early in the second.

Maryland opened with a three-guard lineup for the first time, D.J. Strawberry replacing Caner-Medley, who was benched as a “coach’s decision.” Caner-Medley entered with 11:38 remaining in the first half after the Terps led only 15-10. Caner-Medley started the second half and will open against North Carolina.

“I’ve always been told it’s 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react,” he said of the benching. “There’s a lot of things that happen that may not be exactly as you plan, and you have to react to it in a positive way.”

Said coach Gary Williams: “That’s the most aggressive I’ve seen Nik going for the basketball in awhile. I like the way he handled not starting.”

The Terps experimented lightly with the rotation, though Maryland eventually used all 12 players. With Strawberry starting, point guard Sterling Ledbetter made his earliest debut of the season in the first half. He even made his first field goal at Maryland after transferring from Allegany College last summer. Center Will Bowers added five points and six rebounds in relief.

The frontcourt delivered one of its more intense efforts in preparing for coming ACC frontcourts. Forward Travis Garrison, who admitted playing without emotion Monday, was clearly ready at the start. Garrison showed more energy, even heatedly talking to Mount St. Mary’s players while finishing with seven rebounds.

“The seven rebounds are what’s important for him,” Williams said, “because when he rebounds, it helps every part of the game.”

Center Ekene Ibekwe only scored six points, but his eight rebounds clearly intimidated Mount St. Mary’s. Caner-Medley also played one of his better defensive games.

Mount St. Mary’s used a pair of long-distance 3-pointers to tie Maryland 10-10 with 12:14 remaining. However, the Terps soon pulled away with a 9-0 run followed by a 21-5 streak over the final eight minutes of the half for a 47-25 lead.

Maryland opened the second half with the same smothering pressure for two quick dunks to prompt a Mount St. Mary’s timeout after 68 seconds. Maryland swelled the lead to 62-32 with 15:03 remaining after Garrison scored on an offensive rebound just minutes after hitting his second 3-pointer. The Terps then used pressure defense to again steam away midway through the half for a 72-37 lead.

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