COLLEGE PARK - D.J. Strawberry, Maryland's sixth man, was on the bench in street clothes. Chris McCray was in so much pain an hour before tip-off that he didn't know if he'd be able to play. John Gilchrist suffered through an awful shooting night.
But once again, the Terps proved that they are at their best when confronted by a little adversity. Junior forward Nik Caner-Medley continued his torrid play with 26 points and McCray gave the Terps a lift with his effort and his defense as Maryland downed Virginia, 82-68, before an announced crowd of 17,950 last night at Comcast Center.
The Terps (11-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who fewer than 10 days ago were answering questions about the future of their season after blowout road losses to Wake Forest and North Carolina, put away Virginia with a 19-3 run that started about 5 1/2 minutes into the second half.
"We have our confidence back," said Gilchrist, who shot just 3-for-14 from the field, but did score 13 points, dish out seven assists and commit just one turnover. "We have guys that have really come off the bench and stepped up. It started in the second half of the Wake Forest game."
It was Maryland's 11th victory over the Cavaliers (9-6, 0-5) in the past 15 meetings, and the Terps also have beaten Virginia 11 of the past 12 times they've met in College Park.
Virginia, which led by a point at the half, got a team-high 18 points from senior Elton Brown, but the center was harassed, primarily by the Terps' Will Bowers, into 4-for-18 shooting from the field.
It also was Terps coach Gary Williams' 326th win at Maryland, tying him for fifth place among the league's all-time winningest coaches and fourth place for strictly league wins (134).
"I know it wasn't pretty, but it's not supposed to be," said Williams, whose team hosts North Carolina State on Sunday. "We had to get the win and we did. It was a good team effort. A lot of guys played well."
When he heard just hours before tip-off that Strawberry would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, Caner-Medley took the news hard.
"Emotionally, it was very tough," said Caner-Medley, who shot 8-for-17 from the field and again played with the aggressiveness that he exhibited in his career-high 35-point effort against Temple on Saturday.
McCray, who was with Strawberry in the trainer's room on Tuesday night when the sophomore guard learned the extent of his injury, admitted that he arrived at the arena three hours before game time thinking that he probably wouldn't play either. The bruised tailbone that kept him out of the Temple game simply hurt that much.
However, he was in the starting lineup, and had 12 points and seven rebounds. It was his defense, though, that was especially critical for the Terps. McCray held Virginia's Devin Smith, who had 15 first-half points, to just two in the second half and he took a charge, landing on the sore tailbone.
"I just had to gut it out," said McCray, who did some light running before tip-off before telling Williams he would try to play. "I was dying, but I had to do what I had to do."
Added Caner-Medley: "The way he played tonight shows what kind of person and player he is. That's a tough dude right there. We need that kind of mentality on our team."
McCray and Bowers, who had three of Maryland's 11 blocks, tying a season high, buoyed a Terps defense that held the Cavaliers to 27 second-half points on 7-for-31 shooting.
At the 14:30 mark, Caner-Medley hit a jumper to tie the game at 53 and the Cavaliers would score only three points over the next nine minutes.
"We didn't take care of the ball and were a little careless," said Virginia coach Pete Gillen, whose team played without starter Jason Clark, who will miss the rest of the season because of academic issues. "We have some young guys in there at times, but that's no excuse."
With Gilchrist struggling to find his touch and freshman James Gist not even playing in the second half (Williams was displeased with how hard he played in the first half), Caner-Medley and Ekene Ibekwe shouldered most of the scoring burden in the Terps' 19-3 run that gave them a 70-56 lead with just over five minutes to play.
Ibekwe's struggles have been well-documented lately, but he scored seven straight points during the run and also blocked a shot. Then after Mike Jones knocked down a three-pointer, Ibekwe threw down a dunk on a ball that Bowers kept alive on the offensive glass.
Ibekwe finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
"My emotion was up, my adrenaline was up and I just played hard," said Ibekwe, who claimed he was inspired by a pep talk from Strawberry before the game. "D.J. told me I play best when I play that way."
In closing out Virginia, the Terps benefited from some solid offensive execution down the stretch and also some good fortune.
Caner-Medley jumped out of bounds to save an errant pass and his desperation pass found a cutting McCray, who scored and was fouled. The three-point play gave Maryland a 75-61 lead, and the crowd started filtering out of Comcast Center.
"We've been positive ever since we lost those games on the road," Caner-Medley said. "That's in the past. I think we've proven ourselves over the last two games."
Next for Maryland
Matchup: N.C. State (11-6, 1-3) vs. Maryland (11-4, 2-2)
Site: Comcast Center, College Park
When: Sunday, 6 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)