Maryland 87,

Western Carolina 57

When Travis Garrison departed the game midway through the second half, he received an ovation both from fans and his coach, Gary Williams, who offered a hand and words of encouragement to the Maryland senior before he reached the bench.

Acclaim finally arrived for Garrison after a performance in Maryland's 87-57 victory against Western Carolina that he believes will silence some critics. For so long, the Suitland native was a favorite target for fans who criticized him for the ills of Maryland's front court.

"There was so much I remember," Garrison said. "They said I was too soft. They said I had no post game. They said I was too inconsistent."

Last night, the only thing the Comcast Center crowd of 17,950 did was cheer the 6-foot-8 forward. He finished with a career-high 23 points and 14 rebounds in 29 minutes. It was his second double-double in a week after proving to be a catalyst against Minnesota on Nov. 30, the only other time he started this season.

Garrison's recent play is encouraging for the 21st-ranked Terps, who will begin ACC play Sunday against a Boston College team with a formidable front court. Along with an aggressive Garrison, Maryland (6-2) needs to heal.

Garrison started last night in place of forward James Gist, who played only 10 minutes in the first half and none in the second because he had back spasms after falling hard. Gist was not even on the bench much of the second half.

What's more, Maryland won without its leading scorer, guard Chris McCray, who sat after re-injuring his left ankle in Monday's loss to George Washington and missing Tuesday's practice. McCray initially hurt the ankle against Arkansas on Nov. 23 and then tweaked it during a collision early in the Minnesota game.

"I'm definitely playing" against Boston College, McCray said after the Western Carolina game. "If I have to walk on one leg."

The Terps won't have the same physical advantage against the Eagles as they had against Western Carolina. The Catamounts had only one true big man, 6-foot-10 David Berghoefer, and started three 6-foot guards.

Garrison, who led Maryland in rebounding for the fifth straight game, made 6 of 9 shots in the first half, carrying the Terps with 16 points and 14 rebounds. He had twice the number of rebounds as the Catamounts team in the first half. The Maryland game plan: go inside, again and again.

Maryland attempted 24 field goals before one of its guards, Mike Jones, made a basket. The first 13 shots for the Terps came from three front-court players.

The game was reminiscent of Maryland's sluggish start against Chaminade less than 24 hours after losing to Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational. Last night players had to refocus 48 hours after losing a physical game against George Washington.

Western Carolina (5-6) played the methodical, Princeton-like offense that first-year coach Larry Hunter helped employ during his four-year stint as a North Carolina State assistant.

The Terps did not score a field goal for nearly seven minutes as Western Carolina grabbed a 24-20 lead behind hot shooting. Fans mocked the unassuming looks of guard Kyle Greathouse, who some fans yelled arrived straight out of the movie "Hoosiers."

But Greathouse sank three three-pointers in a span of 2 minutes 30 seconds. His second three-pointer prompted McCray to rise from the bench to root on teammates.

McCray was among the vocal players in the locker room at halftime, pleading for players to show a sense of urgency. It didn't take long.

Forward Ekene Ibekwe, who had 18 points, scored six early to swell the lead. But the story was Garrison.

"In the first half, he kept us in it," Williams said. "You talk about leadership."

Maryland senior Travis Garrison, right, scores over Western Carolina's Jared Outing, left, during the second half.