The score was tied 2-2 after 1:29 of play, and then the number froze on one side of the scoreboard. Another 14:37 elapsed before American scored their next points on a jumper by guard Andres Rodriguez. Unfortunately for the Ealges, Maryland piled up 27 unanswered points during that stretch to remove any doubt about the game's outcome.
Nik Caner-Medley helped get the run started with seven early points, and Jamar Smith sustained it with 12 points and 5 offensive rebounds. Travis Garrison pulled down 8 rebounds to lead the Terps' effort off the boards in the first half. At times this 27-0 run was more like a stroll. Maryland wasn't exactly lighting it up on offense, and the score was stuck at 9-2 for 4:38.
Maryland played outstanding defense, effectively clogging the passing lanes and harassing ball handlers and shooters, but it wasn't THAT good. American looked like they were shooting at one of those trick hoops they have at carnivals, the ones that are about a centimeter wider than the circumference of a basketball. They missed short, they missed long, and the missed everything in between, 19 in a row to be exact. The Eagles' 4-27 first half shooting (0-10 from 3-point range) led to an insurmountable 35-8 halftime deficit.
This was a historic defensive effort by Maryland. The last time they held an opponent to so few points in a half was the famous slowdown game against South Carolina on January 9, 1971, when the Terps led the Gamecocks 4-3 at halftime. That game brought about the five-second closely guarded rule the following season, but I don't expect any rule changes to come from tonight's game, except perhaps to require both teams to shoot with their eyes open.
Any thought AU had about making a game of it quickly evaporated in the second half. Maryland came out with a 12-0 run to open the half and push their lead to 47-8 with 17:55 to play. Chris McCray scored 8 points during this burst, knocking down 2 three-pointers and throwing down a breakaway dunk after a steal.
The balance of the game was merely a good workout for the Terps and a chance for the fans to see everyone play. Even walk-on Darien Henry got some minutes, checking into the game with 4:42 left to the cheers of his fellow students. Ten players saw at least 10 minutes of court time tonight. AU did connect on 8 of 14 three-pointers in the second half to avoid a blowout of biblical proportions.
Smith had his first career double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down a career-high 12 rebounds. McCray and Mike Jones each added 10 points. Garrison and Caner-Medley led the Terps with 8 rebounds each .
Andre Ingram led American with 16 points (4-8 three-pointers) and Rodriguez added 13 but committed 7 turnovers.
Maryland looked quire raw on the offensive end. They scored the bulk of their points on transition (34 points off of 23 Eagle turnovers) and follow-ups after their 22 offensive rebounds. The Terps shot only 41% for the game, and made only 6-22 three-pointers.
John Gilchrist did not have a good stat line (1-8 shots, 2 points, 4 assists) and, when asked what he still needs to work on, said, "Everything." It wasn't that bad, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Coach Williams said afterward, "Our offense isn't good enough yet, but hopefully it will be."
Freshmen Mike Jones, Ekene Ibekwe, and D. J. Strawberry played well coming off the bench in their first official college games. Jones found the range in the second half, knocking down two three pointers. Ibekwe had 3 blocks and made 4 of 6 shots, including a couple of soft mid-range jumpers. Strawberry added 7 points and 5 rebounds. All three youngsters were very aggressive at both ends of the court.
Coach Williams was pleased with the evenings' events, "I thought our effort was what we needed coming out of the locker room."
Williams was not satisfied with the rebounding, particularly the 19 offensive rebounds American pulled down. Caner Medley agreed, "We forced a lot of tough shots and they got a lot of second shots. I think the score would have been a little more lopsided if we rebounded a little better.
Williams praised his team's defense, "The reason it was so lopsided was because of our defense. We're capable of being a good defensive team. We can fly around and we have depth."
American coach Jeff Jones was less impressed, "You can't come away from this game and say that Maryland is a great defensive team, because we stunk." Sounds like someone needs a nap.
Overall, the Terps received good grades on this quiz. They still have a lot of homework ahead of them, however, because the questions will get a lot tougher later on.
Notes From Under the Shell
Travis Garrison scored the first points of the season with a short bank-shot at the 18:54 mark of the first half.
Maryland outscored the Eagles 50-14 in the paint, 34-7 in points off turnovers, and 23-8 in second-chance points.
American started three international players, and had seven on their roster. I wonder how many languages they swore in while shooting 27% for the game.
Coach Jeff Jones is now 1-2 vs. ACC teams at American University. He lost to Maryland and beat Florida State during the 2001-02 season. Jones had plenty of previous experience against the ACC both as a player and coach at Virginia.
Gilchrist sported a new look, coming out tonight with a shiny shaved head. Maryland is now 1-0 in games played where Gilchrist has no hair on his head.
Gary Williams is now 8-0 at Maryland vs. the school where he began his collegiate head-coaching career. The 31-point margin of victory ties the largest ever between the two schools, last occurring in a 98-66 Terrapin win on December 10, 1992.
The last time American University beat Maryland was during the 1926-27 season. The Eagles won a 21-16 contest and no, I was not in attendance. I had to work that night.
Maryland's next game is Tuesday night at the Comcast Center vs. George Mason. Tip-off is at 8:00 PM, and the game will be broadcast on Comcast Sports Net and Fox Sports South.
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Photos courtesy: (AP Photo/Nick Wass)