COLLEGE PARK - Just eight seconds into No. 24 Maryland's 112-67 victory over Liberty last night, Terrapins point guard John Gilchrist hit a three- pointer and then pounded the Comcast Center floor with his hands before getting back on defense.
About 13 minutes later, junior forward Nik Caner-Medley converted a three-point play and then hugged and chest-bumped a couple of his teammates.
Gilchrist went to the bench for extended stretches of the first half, but he barely sat down and at one point, raised his fist, glared at all five of his teammates on the court and encouraged each to play hard. And the Terps were up by 33 at the time.
These were all welcome sights for Terps coach Gary Williams, who has watched his team come out seemingly uninterested and flat at times this season against teams that they should have dominated.
But not last night, especially not in the first half as Maryland (8-2) looked as motivated as it has been since the Memphis game over a month ago, showing little sympathy for an opponent that came in without a victory over a Division I team.
"John was excited early." Williams said. "He played with a lot of energy and that helped us. He's got the ability to make everybody else better.
"The bench did a great job sustaining the momentum."
Five nights after a sluggish victory over American, which included an opening 20 minutes where Williams said nobody wearing a Maryland uniform played well, the Terps staged runs of 10-0, 16-1 and 17-3 - in the first half alone - in overwhelming the Flames (1-8) from the opening tip.
"I just felt if we jumped on them early, it would be a cakewalk the rest of the game." Gilchrist said. "I was just focused. From the jump ball, I was ready to impose my will on the game. If the team sees me like that, then maybe they will follow."
By about the three-minute mark of the first half, every available Terp except sophomore walk-on Gini Chukura, who was just recently cleared to play, had gottenin, with Maryland going into the locker room leading 52-19.
Chukura, a high school teammate of Terps freshman forward James Gist at Good Counsel High, would eventually get in, but did not score.
Gilchrist, who hinted on Monday that he is going to come out more assertive after a couple of games where he looked determined to get his teammates involved early, took four of his team's first six shots.
He finished with a season- high 28 points, his fifth straight game over the 20-point mark. Caner-Medley added 20 points, Gist had 14, and Chris McCray scored 13.
But it just wasn't the starters who had a good time at the expense of the Flames. Sophomore center Will Bowers continued to play with more confidence and his line included four assists. Seldom-used senior Mike Grinnon, who had three points going into last night, scored six and got perhaps the biggest ovation all night when he laid in a Gilchrist alley-oop pass.
"I was thinking dunk after the game." Grinnon said with a smile. "I was greedy. I wanted to make sure I got the two points."
About 10 yards down the court, McCray laughed, knowing it isn't often Grinnon is the recipient of an alley-oop pass. It was that kind of night for Maryland, which shot just under 55 percent from the field and out- rebounded Liberty 61-30.
'It is a big step for us." McCray said. "We played hard for the majority of the game. We still didn't play a full 40 minutes, but it was a step for us."
Sophomore guard Larry Blair was one of the few bright spots for the Flames. The reigning Big South Freshman of the Year scored a game-high 30 points, 25 after halftime. He hit 13 of 21 shots, including 11 of 14 in the second half.
But by then, it mattered little to the Terps, who don't play again until Tuesday against Mount St. Mary's. That will be the last tuneup before the Terps play at North Carolina on Jan. 8 and at Wake Forest three days later.
Next for Maryland
Matchup: Mount St. Mary's (3-5) vs. No. 24 Maryland (8-2)
Site: Comcast Center, College Park
When: Tuesday, 8 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)