COLLEGE PARK - The tuneups are officially over. Maryland will no longer have to hear about maintaining its intensity level against an overmatched visitor.
The Terps needn't worry about making sure they are playing their best basketball in time for the start of the Atlantic Coast Conference season because that time - whether the Terps are ready or not, and they say they are - has arrived.
The Terps (9-2) overwhelmed the Mountaineers (3-7) with two aspects of the game that have been their trademark in the early season: balanced scoring and aggressive defense.
Maryland had 17 steals and forced the Mountaineers into 24 turnovers. Ten players scored, with John Gilchrist and Nik Caner-Medley, who was not in the starting lineup, sharing team-high honors with 17 points. Gilchrist failed to reach 20 points for the first time in six games.
"I didn't know about it until you guys starting writing it." said Gilchrist "It's cool as long as we win. Nine and 2 sounds real good right now."
Junior Travis Garrison, who admitted on Monday that he wasn't playing with the necessary aggressiveness and emotion, was also as assertive as he's been since the season opener, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
"Once we got moving in the first half, I thought we were okay." said Terps coach Gary Williams. "The theme tonight was to come out and play aggressive defense for 40 minutes. I thought we did a good job of that for the most part."
On removing Caner-Medley from the starting lineup, Williams said: "It was a coach's decision, how's that? We"re fine. Nik started the second half. It was just for tonight. That's the most aggressive I've seen him go after the basketball in a while. I liked the way how he handled not starting."
Now, it gets interesting. On Saturday, the Terps will travel to 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 Chris McCray. "We did what we wanted to do after those two [early] losses. Now, it's time to rock, time to suck up. Now, we have to have everybody bring their A game for the rest of the season."
Caner-Medley will likely be back in the starting lineup for both of those ACC games. After starting all 32 games last season and the first 10 this year, he sat and sophomore guard D.J. Strawberry made his first start of the season and fourth of his career.
Caner-Medley, who began the night as the Terps" second-leading scorer at 14.6 points a game, was coming off one of his best games of the season. He scored 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting and had five rebounds and five steals in Maryland's 112-68 victory over Liberty last week.
On his brief benching, he said: 'I've always been taught that it's 10 percent what happens and 90 percent on how you react to it. You have to react to it in the best possible way."
Caner-Medley, who started the second half last night, was part of Williams" first substitu tion package, entering at the 11:20 mark of the first half. It was also about that time that Maryland started to assert its dominance.
Though Caner-Medley didn't have a hand in the Terps" 9-0 run that gave them a 24-12 lead with 9:50 to play, several other reserves did. Freshman forward James Gist got it started with a one-handed dunk off a Will Bowers miss. Bowers then scored on a nifty spin move and converted the ensuing foul shot for a three- point play.
McCray and Mike Jones added baskets in transition, forcing Mountaineers coach Milan Brown to take a timeout.
The Mountaineers, who com mitted 12 first-half turnovers (eight on Maryland steals) got back in the game, cutting the Terps" lead to 26-20, but it was only temporary. The Terps would close the half with a 16-3 run to take a 47-25 lead into intermission.
Caner-Medley scored seven of those points in the stretch, which included junior guard Sterling Ledbetter's first field goal of his Terps career.
Maryland put the finishing touches on its effort with a 9-1 run to open the second half that gave it a 58-26 lead. Two of the baskets came on dunks off of Terps steals, with the Mountaineers not having nearly enough ball handlers to combat Mary land's quickness.
Junior guard Landy Thompson, who played at Archbishop Spalding, led the Mountaineers and all scorers with 20 points.
NOTES: Williams was named a 2004 Washingtonian of the Year by Washingtonian magazine. Gilchrist spent part of the game guarding his cousin, Mountaineers junior guard Antonio Johnson.
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)