COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland Terrapins no longer have to hear about maintaining their intensity level against an overmatched visitor.
They needn't worry about making sure they are playing their best basketball in time for the start of the bulk of their Atlantic Coast Conference season because that time - whether the Terps are ready or not, and they say they are - has arrived.
With their biggest test of the season just four days away and the schedule now out of tuneups, the 22nd-ranked Terrapins dispatched one more non-league foe, pounding Mount St. Mary's, 85-53, last night at Comcast Center.
Junior forward Nik Caner-Medley, who was not in the starting lineup for the first time in two seasons because of a coach's decision, and John Gilchrist scored 17 points apiece.
Junior forward Travis Garrison, who admitted on Monday that he wasn't playing with the necessary aggressiveness and emotion, was as assertive as he's been in weeks, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Now, comes the hard part. On Saturday, the Terps (9-2, 1-0 ACC) will be in Chapel Hill to face third-ranked North Carolina. Three days after that, Maryland will be back on Tobacco Road to take on fourth-ranked Wake Forest.
"I think we're ready," said junior guard Chris McCray. "We did exactly what we wanted to do. Now, it's time to rock; time to suck it up. Now, we have to make sure we bring our 'A' game every night."
McCray had four of the Terps' 17 steals last night as they forced the Mountaineers (3-7) into 23 turnovers and 29.7 percent shooting. The Mount's 53 points marked the lowest output for a Maryland opponent this season.
"We hoped they'd look past us to get ready for Carolina, but they did it the right way," said Mountaineers coach Milan Brown, whose team got a game-high 20 points from Archbishop Spalding graduate Landy Thompson. "They got ready for Carolina by playing us tonight."
Terps coach Gary Williams was mostly pleased with his team's effort, and singled out his defense and Caner-Medley. Maryland, which also benefited from quality minutes from several reserves, including James Gist, Sterling Ledbetter and Will Bowers, closed the first half on a 21-6 run to take a 47-25 lead.
The Terps, who shot 42.6 percent from the field and outrebounded the Mountaineers 52-38, scored the first seven points of the second half before coasting the rest of the way, allowing for extended minutes for most of their reserves.
"The theme tonight was to try to come out and play aggressively for 40 minutes and really get our defense up," Williams said. "I thought we did a pretty good job."
Williams declined to give specifics on Caner-Medley's brief demotion that meant the first start of the season and fourth of his career for sophomore guard D.J. Strawberry, but he did say he was pleased with the way Caner-Medley reacted.
"It was a coach's decision, how's that?" said Williams after the game, saying the change was just for last night's game and that Caner-Medley will be in the starting lineup Saturday. "That was the most aggressive I've seen [Caner-Medley] go after the basketball in a while and I really liked that.
"I liked the way he handled not starting, coming out like he did."
Caner-Medley started all 32 games last season and the first 10 this season. He began last night as the Terps' second-leading scorer at 14.6 points a game and was coming off one of his best games of the season. He scored 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting and added five rebounds and five steals in Maryland's 112-68 victory over Liberty last week.
He was part of Williams' first substitution package last night, entering at the 11:20 mark of the first half, and did start the second half. He ending up shooting 4-for-8 from the field and grabbing six rebounds in 19 minutes. Strawberry, meanwhile, finished with two points on 0-for-4 shooting.
"It was Coach's decision," said Caner-Medley. "I've always been taught that it's 10 percent what happens to you, 90 percent how you react to it, in anything you do. You just have to deal with it and react to it in a positive way.
"There's been a lot of things in my life that have been positive and negative, and being able to focus and react well to bad situations is something that has really helped me as a person."
Gilchrist, who spent part of the evening shadowing his cousin, Mountaineers guard Antonio Johnson, didn't reach the 20-point plateau for the first time in six games. His line did include three assists and three steals, and the junior point guard was already looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
"I didn't know about the [streak of 20-point games] until you guys started talking about it," Gilchrist said. "It's cool as long as we win; 9-2 sounds real good right now."
Next for Maryland
Matchup: No. 22 Maryland (9-2, 1-0) vs. No. 3 North Carolina (12-1, 1-0)
Site: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C.
When: Saturday, noon
TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)