WASHINGTON - The Maryland Terrapins came out focused, energized and even a little angry, and George Mason simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Still smarting from Tuesday's loss to Wisconsin, the 12th-ranked Terps took it out on the Patriots, putting them away early in a 78-54 victory in the first game of the BB&T; Classic at MCI Center.
The score was not indicative of how one-sided the game was, as Maryland (4-1) scored 18 of the first 20 points and led by as many as 37 with 11 minutes to play. The comfortable lead allowed Terps coach Gary Williams to rest his starters for a good part of the second half in preparation for today's matchup with George Washington in the tournament final.
"I thought our players did a good job of preparing after Wisconsin," Williams said. "We were tired for a couple of days, but we came out with a good intensity level and got out to a good start. They had played us tough before and I think it gave us a little incentive to be ready to play and we certainly were ready."
It was point guard John Gilchrist and forward Nik Caner-Medley, the two Terps who shouldered much of the blame for the 69-64 loss at Wisconsin, who got Maryland going yesterday.
Only needed for 24 minutes, Gilchrist, who shot 2-of-14 against the Badgers, had nine points, nine assists (tying a career high) and two steals. Caner-Medley matched junior guard Chris McCray with a game-high 20 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
Said Gilchrist: "I feel that I let my team down so any time you feel like you had a letdown, you need to come out the next game stronger. It's all about how a player bounces back."
Caner-Medley, who was 7-of-9 from the field, had 11 points in the first four minutes. By then, the Terps already had a 15-2 lead, which would grow to 18-2 on a Gilchrist three-pointer, and Patriots coach Jim Larranaga had burned two timeouts to stop the bleeding.
"It was like Maryland was the car and we were the deer," said Larranaga, whose team was led by former Aberdeen standout Jai Lewis' 12 points and 13 rebounds, but got just two from leading scorer Lamar Butler, who was averaging 19. "When the headlights came on, we just froze."
The Terps led 38-15 at halftime, and the reality for George Mason (3-2) was it could have been much worse. The Patriots had just four field goals in the first half, two of them by former Mount St. Joseph star Will Thomas.
George Mason hit 0-of-13 three pointers and shot 4-of-27 from the field in the first half - below 15 percent - and didn't hit double digits until the 5:45 mark. And it only got a little better in the second half as the Patriots finished the game shooting 26.4 percent.
On an afternoon when the Terps got only two combined points from their starting big men, Ekene Ibekwe and Travis Garrison, Maryland pressed early and often and the result was a flurry of dunks and layups. It was exactly the form that the Terps found against Memphis but lacked versus the Badgers.
"The pace was more our style, up and down," Caner-Medley said. "Wisconsin was a big shock for us. It was a completely different style of play. ... I think we played more physical tonight just because we learned that."
The game officially became a laugher - if it wasn't already - with an 8-0 Maryland run early in the second half, followed by a 7-0 run, capped by a D.J. Strawberry dunk that gave the Terps a 66-29 lead with 11 minutes to play.
Then Williams, whose team shot 50.9 percent and a season-best 7-of-12 from three-point range, emptied his bench. Sophomore center Will Bowers had four points, four rebounds and a block in 13 minutes, and Hassan Fofana chipped in with four points and three rebounds in nine minutes.
Everybody played except junior guard Sterling Ledbetter, who is still working his way back from a slight tear in his right calf muscle. Williams said that he's going to have to earn his playing time in practice.
Matchup: No. 12 Maryland (4-1) vs. George Washington (4-1) in BB&T; Classic championship game
Site: MCI Center, Washington
Time: 3 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)