COLLEGE PARK - D.J. Strawberry, Maryland's sixth man, was on the bench in street clothes and will not play the rest of the season. The Terrapins' shooting guard, Chris McCray, started but was visibly slowed by a bruised tailbone that kept him on the bench for Saturday's win over Temple.
And the Terps got a poor shooting performance from starting point guard John Gilchrist.
But the Terps again 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 Ekene Ibekwe broke from a slump to score 12 points as Maryland downed Virginia, 82-68, in an Atantic Coast Conference game last night before an announced crowd of 17,950 at Comcast Center.
"It was a good team effort," said coach Gary Williams. "A lot of guys played well. When Nik is aggressive, he seems to get more looks at the basket. I think that's what happened the last two games."
Despite shooting just 3-for-14, Gilchrist scored 13 points to go with seven assists for Maryland (11-4, 2-2). Elton Brown led Virginia with 18 points and Devin Smith contributed 17, but he was slowed by McCray in the second half.
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 the two have met in College Park.
The Terps, who led by as many as nine points in the first half before fading slightly, trailed by one at halftime, but freshman point guard Sean Singletary hit a three-pointer on the Cavaliers' first two possessions of the second half to give Virginia a 47-42 lead.
Coming off back-to-back ACC road blowouts to North Carolina and Wake Forest, Maryland was showing signs of frustration, too. Gilchrist forcefully reprimanded McCray for not giving the ball up on one possession, and the conversation between the two continued as the Terps headed to the bench for a timeout. McCray ended it by playfully patting Gilchrist on the head.
But as he did against Temple, Caner-Medley lifted the Terps from their struggles. He scored on a short jumper and then knocked down a three-pointer to tie the game at 51.
He then answered a basket by Brown before getting some help from Ibekwe, who shouldered some of the scoring burden in a 14-2 Terps run that gave them a 60-53 lead with 12:24 to play.
The sophomore center's struggles lately have been well documented, but he scored seven straight points during the run and also blocked a shot.
Then after Mike Jones, who figures to see most of the minutes in replacing Strawberry, knocked down a three-pointer, Ibekwe threw down a dunk on a ball that Will Bowers kept alive on the offensive glass.
At that point, the Terps led by 10 with about 8:30 to play, but they would push that lead to 70-56 after Gilchrist scored on a leaner in the lane.
"We have our confidence back," Gilchrist said. "We have guys that really come off the bench and stepped up starting in the second half of the Wake Forest game."
It was 72-59 Maryland when Gilchrist knocked down two free throws at the 4:08 mark and the Terps would then benefit from 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.
Virginia cut it to 76-67 when J.R. Reynolds scored on a rare four-point play but Caner-Medley answered with an open three-pointer from the corner and the crowd started filtering out of Comcast Center.
Virginia also came into the game saddled with a three-game losing streak that erased much of the momentum the Cavaliers created in winning eight straight to open the season.
Senior forward Jason Clark was a steady contributor to the Cavaliers' hot start, but the team announced before the game that he will miss the remainder of the season for academic reasons.
Gary Forbes started in his place. Virginia could have used Clark's muscle inside to deal with Caner-Medley.
Picking up where he left off against Temple, who he torched for a career-high 35 points, Caner-Medley came out aggressive in both looking for his shot and crashing the offensive boards.
Caner-Medley had 10 points, four rebounds and a block by the 12:45 mark of the first half. About the only thing he didn't do was slow Devin Smith, who scored 11 of the Virginia's first 23 points.
When Caner-Medley exited at the 8:00 mark, replaced by McCray, he had 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting and Maryland enjoyed a 31-23 lead.
"I just had to gut it out for my team," McCray said. "I was dying out there. My initial thought was I probably wouldn't play. But I had to do what I had to do."
The Cavaliers engineered a 12-0 run with five points coming from Reynolds and four from Smith, to take a 35-32 lead with 5:40 remaining in the half.
Virginia's lead was 41-40 after Brown got inside of Bowers, who had just blocked two of his shots on previous possessions, and scored. Gilchrist, who was just 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, then missed a three-pointer on the other end as the Cavaliers took the one-point lead into the locker room.
Maryland will play North Carolina State on Sunday at Comcast Center.
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)