Terrapin point guard John Gilchrist had the biggest offensive game of his short career, leading Maryland with 24 points. He keyed an 11-0 run shortly after halftime that gave the Terps a commanding 55-36 lead. In that run, Gilchrist nailed an outside jumper, scored on a driving layup, led Chris McCray with a long pass that resulted in a three-point play for McCray, scored on another driving layup, and laid yet another shot in after a feed from McCray.
Gilchrist made 10-18 field goal attempts, including 3-4 from three-point range. He also dished out seven assists and grabbed five rebounds. Asked after the game about his increased offensive production, Gilchrist said it was part of a process, "Each game is a building block; every day, every practice."
Maryland also unveiled a new offensive weapon against the Waves … D. J. Strawberry. Most of his contributions in previous games had come on defense, but Strawberry scored a season-high 17 points on 7-8 shooting and made both of his three-point attempts (he came into the game 0-5 from beyond the arc). He looked very comfortable in only his second game as the Terps' backup point guard. Strawberry understood what he needed to do tonight, " Our team looked a little flat when I came into the game so I wanted to bring energy and knock down a couple of shots early, it got me going."
Maryland Coach Gary Williams had been concerned about how his team would come out for this game following their win at #1 Florida Wednesday, and with exams looming on Monday. His worries appeared to be well founded after the Terps made only 3 of their first 12 shots. Pepperdine Coach Paul Westphal (the former NBA star and coach) had his team concentrate on smothering Jamar Smith every time he touched the ball, and they succeeded in harassing Smith into missing his first five shots.
Showing a maturity they may not have displayed even two weeks ago, Maryland stayed with the offense, working the ball inside at every opportunity. The Waves continued to drop two and three men on Smith, leaving the Terps with open shots on the perimeter. As the game progressed a funny thing happened, for the first time this season, Maryland started knocking down their outside shots.
In a textbook example of taking what the defense gives you, the Terps made 6-11 three-point shots in the first half and finished 10-16 for the game (a season-best 62.5%). This also gave Gilchrist room to work and, instead of forcing the ball into traffic or just dribbling the ball waiting for someone to break open, he took the initiative and demonstrated good shot selection with his 18 attempts.
Pepperdine took a 16-14 lead with 12:03 left in the first half, but Nik Caner-Medley quickly answered with a three-pointer. This began a 9-0 run that put Maryland out to a 23-16 lead, and they would never trail in this game again. The Terps led 44-32 at halftime.
The Waves had a brief rally, trimming Maryland's 57-36 lead down to 59-46 with 14:31 left in the game, but Strawberry got the Terps off to a 12-0 run of their own to make the score 71-46 with 11:41 left. Strawberry started it by knocking down a three, then driving around his defender from mid-court to score on a layup. McCray added a three in that stretch.
Maryland put on an offensive clinic in the second half, making 21-31 (67.7%) of their shots. The Terps also committed only ten turnovers and demonstrated they could win without frequent transition baskets fueled by their opponents' mistakes. Maryland forced only 10 turnovers from the Waves but held them to 38% shooting.
Junior forward Glen McGowan single-handedly kept this game from being an embarrassment to Pepperdine. He scored 36 points in only 28 minutes, making 11-21 shots from all over the court. He received little help from his teammates, who combined to make only 15 of their 46 attempts (32%).
Jamar Smith made it six out of seven games with a double-double by scoring 12 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. McCray added 11 points and Caner-Medley scored 10.
Travis Garrison didn't exactly build on the momentum from his game-winning shot at Florida. He picked up two quick fouls at the start of the game and wound up playing a total of only five minutes in the game. Ekene Ibekwe and Will Bowers picked up the majority of the extra playing time. Ibekwe had his usual strong defensive effort, but struggled on offense. He made only 1-5 shots and didn't really seem comfortable at that end of the court, although he was active enough to pull down four offensive rebounds. Bowers looked more comfortable on offense and also grabbed four rebounds.
Mike Jones saw some extended playing time, scoring eight points and handing out an assist. Coach Williams seemed encouraged by Jones' performance after the game, " I think he did a pretty good job too coming off the bench. He was alive. He showed a little bit, besides being a very good shooter, just how quick he is to the ball, and that's what we're trying to get him to do. In other words, we all know he's a good shooter, but there's more to it than that." Jones seems to be getting it, "I felt a lot more comfortable out there. Not just scoring but playing defense well and getting my team involved to help them score as well."
Williams was pleased with his team's overall effort. "I think we were all curious just how we'd play after the Florida game, and I think it took us awhile to get playing, but once we did I thought we played at a pretty good level. We handled that halftime situation well right before the half, and that seemed to carry over into the second half. We looked like we had some guys who couldn't move out there early, so we had to go through the lineup and see who was ready to go."
Williams obviously found the right combinations. The Terps improve to 6-2 on the season. They break for exams next week and return to the court Tuesday, December 23 when they face UNC-Greensboro at the Comcast Center.
Notes From Under the Shell
Apparently a few fans, still smarting from his late-game turnover against Florida, shouted some less than encouraging things in Mike Grinnon's direction when he entered the game tonight. Coach Williams was very upset by that, addressing it in his post game remarks to the fans. After thanking them for coming tonight, he said, "Hopefully everybody rooted for ALL of our players."
Georgia State dedicated their new basketball court to former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell Friday night. Driesell coached for four years at the school before abruptly retiring early last season. On his way to receive that honor, he attended the funeral of friend and former NC State Coach Norm Sloan, who died last week.
Troy Wainwright, Maryland's Director of Basketball Operations since 1996, is hospitalized following a surgical procedure. We all hope for a speedy recovery and return to work for Troy, an important part of Terrapin basketball behind the scenes.
Maryland fans should make sure to pick up this week's issue of Sports Illustrated. There is a piece in the magazine titled "The Next Straw", featuring D. J. Strawberry and his father Darryl. There's a bit too much Darryl in it for my taste, but it is a good piece nonetheless and definitely worth reading. Is D. J. Strawberry becoming the face of Maryland basketball?
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Photos courtesy: (AP Photo/Nick Wass)