The Maryland Terrapins defeated the EA Sports All-Stars 84-70 in their first dress rehearsal for the 2003-04 season. For players moving from understudies to leading men, it was a time to deal with opening night jitters and embrace their new roles.
On this night, Nik Caner-Medley was the leading man. In his first game since suffering a horrific ankle injury in the NCAA Tournament last March, Caner-Medley's all-around excellence demanded the spotlight. He made 8 of his 9 shots and led the team with 20 points. Caner-Medley also pulled down 7 rebounds, dished out 4 assists, and blocked 4 shots. Coach Gary Williams thought, "Nik had a great game."
Caner-Medley's superb passing was one of the more pleasant surprises of the night for the Terrapins. He credits the improvement in this phase of his game to "feeling so much more comfortable in the offense. This year, I know where people are going to be and I can get the ball to them." Coach Williams concurs, saying, "Nik knows what he's doing out there. You don't have to tell him a lot."
John Gilchrist had the type of game that was expected of him, handing out 8 assists, grabbing 7 rebounds, and scoring 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting. Coach Williams thought, "John Gilchrist was really tough."
Gilchrist showed he was ready to assume some of the mantle of leadership for his team with how he approached the preparation for this game. He said "Us sophomores, we've got to play the role of seniors last year. We fell like we've got something to prove." His predecessor as Maryland point guard, Steve Blake, was in attendance and received a standing ovation when shown on the scoreboard television screen.
Jamar Smith had an interesting game. He had a solid stat line with 14 points and 7 rebounds, but still did not establish any consistent low post presence on offense. He was mostly content to shoot jumpers and occasionally flashed across the lane to receive a pass. Missing 6 of 8 free throws was also not a positive start for the Terps only senior.
Travis Garrison was the teams leading rebounder with 11 off the boards, but was ineffective on the offensive end. He missed 6 of his 7 shots, most of them fade away jump shots. He did not seem aggressive and, after being chastised by Coach Williams for allowing a passto go off his hands, said something back to him. Not surprisingly, he landed on the bench for a quick moment of counseling from assistant coach Jimmy Patsos before returning to the court.
The outcome of the game was never really in doubt, although Maryland did allow a 40-24 lead shrink to 42-39 at halftime. The Terps came out with a 10-2 run at the beginning of the second half to reestablish a working margin that stayed between 5-10 points most of the balance of the game.
Nine players saw at least 10 minutes of action. Surprisingly, one of them was Wil Bowers and one was not Mike Jones. Bowers was the first big man off the bench and was very active underneath, picking up several floor burns in his 13 minutes. Jones played only nine minutes and still did not appear to get into the flow of the game.
After the game, Coach Williams commented "We're a long way away from being a good basketball team, but we're at the point where we can work on some things."
There is work to be done, that's for sure, but there are ten days until the curtain officially rises on the new season. As Gilchrist said, "we've got to fine tune everything" before act one.
Notes from under the shell
Defense is still a major concern for Coach Williams, and a lack of such triggered his first official outburst of the season early in the second half. It was good to see that Williams was already in game shape.
The starting lineup was Jamar Smith at center, Travis Garrison and Nik Caner-Medley at forwards, and Chris McCray and John Gilchrist at guard. Look for that group to stay intact until further notice.
Williams said, “I was pleased with our young guys, our freshmen” although none of them made much of an impression in the box score. The five first-year players, none of who were in the starting lineup, combined for only 14 points and fourrebounds in a total of 52 minutes played.
EA Sports has now dropped all four games they played against the ACC. They lost in previous stops at Wake Forest, Duke, and NC State. A late addition to the roster was former Washington, DC prep star and Syracuse standout Lawrence Moten. Coach Williams gave Moten a warm embrace before the game, remembering one of the first prize recruits he landed at Maryland. Moten was denied admission to the school in April of 1991, however. He scored only 7 points tonight, connecting on 2 of 7 shots.
Maryland recruit James Gist officially signed his letter of intent on Wednesday, the first day of the early signing period. The 6'8" forward from Good Counsel High School in Wheaton, Maryland is ranked in the top 40 nationally by some recruiting services. Coach Williams said, "James has the potential to become a great player for us." The Terps still have one open scholarship available for next season.
There were several thousand fans that came dressed as empty seats tonight (the official attendance was 17,146), but the acoustics of the Comcast Center makes it difficult to tell. Even a moderately sized and interested crowd makes a lot of noise in that building.
During one of the timeouts, there was a contest pitting students against fans in a sponsored contest to see who could assemble the most pizza boxes in a given time. I can hardly wait for the next game, where I'm sure a paint company will sponsor a contest to have people watch paint dry.
You can post your comments or questions on the message board or send me e-mail at email@example.com.