George Washington 82
While the rest of his Maryland teammates were cheering, smiling from ear to ear, Steve Blake calmly walked toward the bench for a timeout with his team comfortably ahead in the second half. The look on Blake's face gave no hint that he was enjoying one of the best games of his career, nor the fact that he had been responsible for much of the ninth-ranked Terrapins' turnaround and their 93-82 victory over George Washington yesterday at MCI Center.
The lone returning starter from last season's national championship team, Blake has grown accustomed to winning and making big plays in key games. That he did it again in the BB&T Classic consolation game was not noteworthy, Blake said.
"I expected that to happen," Blake said after Maryland ended a two-game losing streak and beat its local co-host. "This is what we need to be doing. I'm not the most emotional player in the world. I take shots and I expect to make them."
Less than 24 hours after a dreadful offensive display in a loss to Notre Dame, the Terrapins bounced back. They made extra passes, tried to get the ball inside and enjoyed a splendid shooting performance. Blake made 10 of 12 shots, setting a career-high with 27 points. Shooting guard Drew Nicholas emerged from a mini-slump and also scored 27 points. Maryland shot 55 percent and made 12 of 17 three-point attempts.
"We're a lot better off than we were this time [Saturday]," Maryland Coach Gary Williams said. "That's a confidence-shaker, no doubt about it. Indiana was one thing, but the way we played against Notre Dame, we didn't feel good about that at all. I wasn't sure how we were going to come out, to be honest with you. I think it says a lot about our players . . . I thought if we lost two here, it would really hurt whatever we wanted to do this year."
Though his team lost, George Washington Coach Karl Hobbs also was pleased, noting that he thought perhaps fatigue was a problem for his players. The Colonials (3-3) led by 12 points midway through the first half, but trailed by 21 midway through the second.
Losing "doesn't take away anything," Hobbs said. "I'm very proud of the way my team played. We can have bad days, but we can never have a bad effort day. We played with a tremendous amount of effort.
"You've got to understand. Blake has been a starter since his freshman year. You know how many wars he's been in? Drew Nicholas is a senior, he's been around forever. You look around and they've got all these senior guys. Those guys are coming off a national championship. We play five guys who are playing in their [sixth] NCAA basketball game."
Indeed, it was the back court of Blake and Nicholas that made the difference for the Terrapins (4-2). Blake came through offensively in each half, providing a much-needed offensive spark. Nicholas, who had been 5 of 19 (0 of 8 on three-point tries) in the previous two games, went 9 of 18. Blake and Nicholas were 5 of 7 apiece from three-point range.
Maryland opened with a shooting display reminiscent of its 29.9 percent shooting in Saturday's 79-67 loss to Notre Dame, leaving the Terrapins with a 31-19 deficit. Freshman John Gilchrist came in the game to play point guard, moving Blake to shooting guard, where he quickly took over the game.
Blake started by driving along the left baseline and passing to freshman Travis Garrison for an open jumper from the corner of the foul line. Blake then made a three-pointer from the right wing -- his first shot of the game -- and it was 31-24. After GW called a timeout, Blake was fouled and made two free throws, then made a three-pointer from near the top of the key and finished a three-on-one break with a layup, tying the score at 31.
A few minutes later, Blake drove the right side and scored, giving Maryland a 38-37 lead it did not relinquish. The Terrapins played solid defense, not allowing a basket in the final 6 minutes 50 seconds of the half, and took a 48-43 halftime lead after Nicholas made a pair of three-pointers and two free throws.
Blake started the second half with an open three-pointer from the left wing. A few minutes later, Nicholas made a steal and dunk, then Blake made a three-pointer from the right corner. It was 58-47 and Maryland was on its way.
"This was the biggest test of the season so far," Nicholas said. "One of the kind of things where it shows what kind of team we are. . . . Later down the road, I think guys are going to see how big this win is for us. We had our backs to the ropes and responded."