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Terrapins Are Heading to New York

Maryland 85, TCU 73

By Jon Gallo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 27, 2005; Page E11

Maryland junior guard Sterling Ledbetter touched the scars underneath his right eye and lip when he reflected on how far he's come after a car wreck last May nearly ended his career.

"I came so close to never playing again, and now here I am starting and showing what I can do after some people thought I'd never make it back," said Ledbetter, who fractured so many bones during the one-car wreck he lost count. "Less than a year ago, I was in the hospital and couldn't walk, and now look at me."

Ledbetter was easy to spot yesterday afternoon. He guided the Terrapins to an 85-73 victory over Texas Christian in a National Invitation Tournament quarterfinal game at Comcast Center.

Maryland (19-12) advanced to face South Carolina (18-13) on Tuesday night at about 9:30 at Madison Square Garden in New York City in what will be the Terrapins' first semifinal appearance in the NIT since claiming its lone title in 1972. Memphis (22-15) and Saint Joseph's (23-11) will meet in the preceding semifinal at 7, and the winners play Thursday night at 7 in the championship game.

Ledbetter wasn't flashy against the Horned Frogs (21-14), but he was effective filling in for John Gilchrist, who missed his third consecutive game because of an injured wrist and ankle.

Ledbetter scored two points to go along with six assists against three turnovers in 34 minutes. But his biggest contribution showed in what his teammates did, as five Terrapins scored in double figures, led by junior forward Nik Caner-Medley's 20 points. Maryland improved to 3-0 with Ledbetter as a starter.

Ledbetter "didn't play a whole lot before the NIT," Terrapins Coach Gary Williams said. "It's just really good for Sterling, and I think he's gained the confidence of the other players, which I think at the point guard position is probably as important as anything. They believe that if they get open, they'll get the ball from Sterling."

Ledbetter is averaging 7.3 points, 6.3 assists and 6 rebounds in the past three games since taking over for Gilchrist (13.9 points, 5.5 assists, 5.1 rebounds per game) at the start of the NIT.

"It's sort of like an audition to show what I can do," he said. "I want to show that I can lead our team, and now we're going to New York City."

Maryland was able to extend its season because it outscored the Horned Frogs 16-5 after TCU, which had led by as many as seven points in the second half, pulled to 69-68 on Aaron Curtis's free throw with 5 minutes 8 seconds remaining.

"Our season was on the line, and we weren't ready to have it end," said junior guard Chris McCray, who scored 18 points, as did teammate Mike Jones. "We wanted to keep playing and go to New York."

TCU guard Corey Santee (game-high 21 points) made five of his first six three-point attempts, and guard Nile Murry (20 points) added three more three-pointers during a half in which the team shot 50 percent (9 of 18) from beyond the arc.

"We gave them too many good looks in the first half, and they made their shots," McCray said. "But then we did a better job in the second half, and that really changed the game."

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