Terps Grab Win on the Road
Thursday, January 26, 2006
ATLANTA, Jan. 25 -- Each time Maryland's players and coaches took the basketball court this week, be it for practice or for Wednesday's game at Georgia Tech, it proved to be their place of refuge.
It provided an escape from the incessant questions surrounding how the Terrapins could lose their two-year co-captain, Chris McCray, for the rest of the season because of poor grades. Players managed to focus on the court, which was apparent throughout Wednesday's 86-74 victory against Georgia Tech before 9,191 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
"When we got on the court" this week, Maryland Coach Gary Williams said, "it was a relief."
No statistic better illustrated sharpened concentration than free throw shooting. Maryland made 41 of 45, which tied the school record for the most made in a game.
Judging by Wednesday's effort, it was hard to tell that 18th-ranked Maryland (14-4, 4-2 ACC) had not won a road game since Feb. 19. The Terps were aggressive and sharp on both ends of the floor and got better as the game progressed. Nik Caner-Medley compensated for the absence of McCray, who was ruled academically ineligible Monday, by scoring a season-high 33 points.
Players had a no-nonsense demeanor that matched that of their coach. On two occasions Wednesday, Williams walked down the end of the bench and said something to a small contingent of Georgia Tech fans who were heckling D.J. Strawberry while he was at the free throw line.
"There was something said, a one-word cheer that I did not like," Williams said. "That's me. I protect my players, so, sorry."
When a reporter told Williams afterward that he seemed particularly feisty, Williams said: "I was ready. I was ready."
The entire team shared that sentiment.
"We miss him," Travis Garrison said of McCray, his friend since middle school, "but we can't stop playing basketball because of it. We got a road win. Everybody said we couldn't get a road win, but we got a road win."
For Williams, this was a return to the city of his greatest triumph, where Maryland won the 2002 national title. He entered Wednesday dealing with vastly different and less pleasant circumstances, but Atlanta remained a special place.
With the victory, Williams tied Lefty Driesell as Maryland's winningest coach with 348 victories. "Atlanta has been a great city for us," Williams said.