ATLANTA - They shut down two of Georgia Tech's most dangerous scorers. They battled back impressively after stumbling out of the starting block. They positioned themselves to steal a much-needed conference victory on the road.
But in the end, the Maryland Terrapins could not sustain their offense, broke down too much on defense, never generated much production from their front court, and failed to counter an unexpected and effective scoring combination.
Junior guard Will Bynum came off the bench to score a career-high 25 points, junior center Luke Schenscher added 15 points and 11 rebounds, and the 12th-ranked Yellow Jackets turned back Maryland's upset bid by finishing strong to take an 81-71 victory last night before 9,191 at Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
On a night when junior guard B.J. Elder (seven points) and senior guard Marvin Lewis (five points) were not at their best for Georgia Tech, Bynum, a 5-foot-11 transfer from Arizona, had more than enough in reserve. He and Schenscher did plenty to offset a career-high scoring night from Maryland sophomore point guard John Gilchrist, who finished with 27 points.
Bynum, who left Arizona in midseason last year and sat out the first seven games to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, made his ninth game in a Georgia Tech uniform count in a huge way. In 20 minutes, he sliced open the Terps from outside and in, hitting five of seven three-point attempts and driving through the heart of the Maryland defense. He scored 19 points in 15 second-half minutes.
"[Bynum] is pretty good, but I'm not sure how well we played against him. He had a great night," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who was perturbed by the Terps' shot selection, their inability to cover Bynum and their general lack of chemistry just three days after defeating No. 9 North Carolina at home.
"We have to be good at running our half-court offense. We just couldn't get into our sets. I wasn't real happy with our shot selection," added Williams, who watched the Terps shoot a season-low 36.2 percent, miss 13 of 17 three-point attempts, and get virtually nothing from sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley (season-low five points) and senior center Jamar Smith (seven points). They shot a combined 3-for-22.
The game boiled down to a 14-0 run by Georgia Tech that began in the middle of the second half with the Terps in front 55-53 after a three-pointer by freshman guard Mike Jones. Bynum scored nine points during the run, finishing it with two free throws to give the Yellow Jackets a 67-55 lead with 6:02 left.
"That was crazy. I couldn't believe that," Schenscher said of Bynum's efforts. "He just couldn't miss, hands in his face and everything. He was just unbelievable."
By that point, Maryland's offense had gone into a funk from which it would not recover. The Terps, who erased an early 19-8 deficit by taking a 38-35 halftime lead, went through 6:48 down the stretch without a field goal and had no player besides Gilchrist finish in double figures.
Georgia Tech (14-2, 2-1), off to its best start in school history, has won 24 of its past 26 games at home, while the Terps (10-4, 1-2) are still looking for their first Atlantic Coast Conference road victory.
With the loss by top-ranked Connecticut to North Carolina and No. 2 Duke's victory over Wake Forest yesterday, the Terps will face their second No. 1 opponent of the season when Duke visits Comcast Center on Wednesday.
It will mark the third straight year in which Maryland has faced a top-ranked Blue Devils team at home. The Terps have won the previous two by a combined 29 points.
But last night was about not finishing the job on the road and failing to follow a strong effort with another one. The Terps lost for the fourth time in their past five visits to Georgia Tech.
"Sometimes it's kind of hard for people to get up on the road. I get more motivation on the road, because it's you against the world," said Gilchrist, who pushed the Terps into their halftime lead with 12 points early. "They got a spark from Bynum, and you've got to give him credit. We just didn't come out as a team and give a good effort. We need to get wins like we should have gotten tonight. That's when you become an elite team."
Caner-Medley, who shot 1-for-10, said: "Sometimes we tend to panic a little bit. That might have been what happened down the stretch. If we execute and get everybody involved, we're a good team. If we don't, we can definitely be beat."
The Terps had the right rhythm going at times. In the first half, which featured some unorthodox lineups - freshmen D.J. Strawberry, Ekene Ibekwe, Will Bowers and Jones on the floor together - Maryland put together a 25-9 run to take a 33-28 lead with 3:27 left in the half. That sequence featured a technical foul assessed to Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, his first of the season.
Gilchrist scored 11 points during that surge, which the Terps continued early in the second half. But after Gilchrist scored on a runner with 15:50 left to give Maryland a 47-40 advantage, point guard Jarrett Jack (17 points) and Bynum hit back-to-back threes to trim the lead to 47-46.
After a put-back by Schenscher gave Georgia Tech a 51-49 lead with 12:12 to go, the lead changed hands four times.
But no one other than Gilchrist stepped forward for Maryland.
"You're probably not going to win when the two guys that have been carrying a lot of the load, scoring-wise, played like that," Williams said of Caner-Medley and Smith. "I didn't like much about our offense."
Next for Terps
Matchup: Maryland (10-4, 1-2) vs. No. 2 Duke (14-1, 4-0)
Site: Comcast Center, College Park
When: Wednesday, 9 p.m.
TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)
No. 12 Georgia Tech 81, Maryland 71
Maryland Min. FG FT Reb Ast PF Pts.
Caner-Medley 32 1-10 3-4 6 1 2 5 Ibekwe 16 3-5 1-2 5 0 2 7 Smith 32 2-12 3-6 13 2 4 7 Gilchrist 34 11-19 4-5 6 1 3 27 McCray 30 3-8 2-2 3 1 4 9 Garrison 24 1-5 2-2 6 1 1 4 Strawberry 15 2-3 1-4 3 3 3 5 Jones 10 2-6 1-2 2 0 1 7 Bowers 7 0-1 0-0 2 0 2 0
Totals 200 25-69 17-27 46 9 22 71
Percentages: FG-.362, FT-.630. 3-point goals: 4-17, .235 (Caner-Medley 0-4, Gilchrist 1-6, McCray 1-4, Jones 2-3). Team rebounds: 0. Blocked shots: 8 (Bowers 2, Ibekwe 2, Caner-Medley, Strawberry, Garrison, Smith). Turnovers: 19 (Gilchrist 4, Strawberry 4, Smith 3, Caner-Medley 2, Ibekwe 2, Garrison 2, McCray, Jones). Steals: 11 (Gilchrist 3, Caner-Medley 2, McCray 2, Ibekwe 2, Smith, Strawberry).
Georgia Tech Min. FG FT Reb Ast PF Pts.
Muhammad 21 1-7 7-11 9 0 1 9 Moore 27 1-5 0-0 11 1 4 3 Schenscher 33 7-10 1-2 11 0 4 15 Elder 30 3-13 0-0 0 2 4 7 Jack 34 5-9 6-7 5 4 2 17 Bynum 20 8-14 4-4 7 1 3 25 Lewis 20 2-6 0-0 2 0 1 5 Brooks 1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 Tarver 6 0-0 0-0 0 0 2 0 McHenry 8 0-1 0-0 0 0 2 0
Totals 200 27-65 18-24 40 9 22 81
Percentages: FG-.415, FT-.750. 3-point goals: 9-21, .429 (Moore 1-4, Elder 1-4, Jack 1-2, Bynum 5-7, Lewis 1-4). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 7 (Schenscher 3, McHenry 2, Muhammad, Moore). Steals: 8 (Schenscher 2, Moore 2, Muhammad, McHenry, Bynum, Jack).
Maryland 38 33 - 71
Georgia Tech 35 46 - 81
Technical fouls: Georgia Tech 1 (Bench). A: 9,191. Officials: Patrick Adams, Raymond Perone, Ted Valentine.