CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - University of Maryland sophomore point guard John Gilchrist said he felt ashamed of his team's losing skid and his own recent performances. And Gilchrist played like an angry, determined man on a night when the Terrapins needed a victory.
Gilchrist capped a game-high, 26-point evening by making a put-back with four seconds remaining, after a steal and a missed shot by freshman guard D.J. Strawberry, as Maryland overcame, among many problems, poor shooting from the foul line and the field and hung on to beat Virginia, 71-67, before 7,378 at University Hall.
This was a victory the Terps (12-7, 3-5) had to have. Maryland, which had lost four of its previous five games, avoided its first three-game losing streak in three years and a fall into a last-place tie with Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terps completed the first half of their league schedule in seventh place by winning their second road ACC game.
The Terps earned very few style points, but their grit was everywhere, from an outstanding effort by their bench to a career-high 10-rebound night in 12 minutes by sophomore forward Travis Garrison to sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley, who limped through the second half with a bruised right quadriceps and scored seven of his eight points.
Maryland, which blew a 43-36 halftime lead but regained the advantage at 56-54 midway through the second half on a steal and a layup by Caner-Medley, staggered to the finish by shooting just 29 percent from the field in the second half and 50 percent at the free-throw line.
"There were a lot of things riding on this game that I didn't want to talk to the team about tonight. They know," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "This is how we play. This is how we have to play. It's never going to look pretty. If we're going to be good, we have to play this way.
"I think John was the key with his leadership. That leadership is something this team needs from the point guard position. I really thought he was focused tonight."
The Terps missed 10 of 19 foul shots in the game's final 8:29 and were clinging to a 69-67 lead and dropping back on defense, as Virginia (12-7, 2-6) was setting up for a possible game-tying or game-winning shot. As Cavaliers guard Todd Billet crossed the midcourt line, Maryland guard Chris McCray turned him toward the sideline, where Strawberry darted into the picture, stole the ball, drove to the basket and missed a layup.
Gilchrist, who was trailing the play, grabbed the miss and banked in the game's final basket to send Virginia to the bottom of the ACC standings.
For Gilchrist, who played at Salem High in Virginia Beach, the ending completed a night of redemption. After back-to-back subpar showings in losses against Wake Forest and North Carolina State, Gilchrist responded with 21 first-half points and went on to finish with eight rebounds. He also committed nine of Maryland's 17 turnovers and had only one assist, but the bottom line negated that problem.
"My motivation came from the losing streak we've been on, and I just wanted to come out here and, more than anything else in this world, get a win," said Gilchrist, who made four of six three-point attempts.
Thirteen of his 21 first-half points came in a 23-4 run that lasted only 4 1/2 minutes, giving the Terps a 28-16 lead. He ended the half by dribbling the clock toward zero, then swishing a 25-footer with three seconds left.
"The taste of losing is something I haven't been used to all my life," Gilchrist said. "It hurts so bad when you lose. Just to be labeled as losers, we had to come out with that type of urgency tonight. It's not about individual talent. It's all about heart."
Maryland needed plenty of it. Senior center Jamar Smith never got into the flow and finished with six points and only one rebound before fouling out in 17 minutes. Freshman Hassan Fofana stepped in and made his 275-pound presence felt in the paint with a career-high 10 rebounds, five points and a blocked shot.
Garrison replaced freshman Ekene Ibekwe in the starting lineup after coming off the bench for seven games and ran into immediate foul trouble, but he still grabbed nine rebounds in the first half.
McCray continued his prolonged shooting slump by scoring just three points in 30 minutes, but Strawberry (nine points, five rebounds, three steals) and freshman Mike Jones (seven points, three rebounds) filled the void. In all, Maryland's bench accounted for 23 points and 19 rebounds.
"When you go on the road, it's always going to be tough to win," Strawberry said. "You have to figure out a way to fight and scrap your way to victory."
Gilchrist was the lone Terp to score in double figures, while Virginia had four.
Junior center Elton Brown scored 17 of his team-high 24 points in the first half and had nine rebounds. Freshman guard J.R. Reynolds scored 15 and hit a pair of three-pointers that each pulled Virginia to within three points of Maryland down the stretch. Junior guard Devin Smith (12 points) made the three-pointer that cut the Terps' lead to 68-67 with 30 seconds left.
But the Terps, who could not put away the contest at the foul line, secured it with a hustle play at the end by forcing Virginia's 20th turnover.
"It's a game I thought we could have won, but it was lost in several areas," Virginia coach Pete Gillen said. "I have to give Maryland credit. They made the big plays when they had to."
Next for Terps
Matchup: Florida State (16-6, 4-4 ACC) vs. Maryland (12-7, 3-5)
Site: Comcast Center, College Park
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)