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Steve DeShazo's column on Maryland vs. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech's Javaris Crittenton (1) tries to strip Maryland's Greivis Vasquez
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By STEVE DeSHAZO
COLLEGE PARK, Md.--College teams love to promote their seniors. Maryland has splashed photos of its three starting fourth-year players (forward Ekene Ibekwe and guards Mike Jones and D.J. Strawberry) on the cover of its basketball media guide.
There's a fourth player there, along with coach Gary Williams. That's appropriate, because it may turn out that as James Gist goes, so go the Terrapins.
Gist is a splendidly gifted junior forward who has almost perfectly embodied the Terps' plight since he arrived: plenty of potential, flashes of brilliance--and confounding inconsistency.
In the first half of last night's home game against Georgia Tech, Gist was nearly unstoppable. He went 6-for-6 from the field and scored 16 points--just two short of his career high--as the Terps surged to a 43-26 lead over the overmatched Yellow Jackets.
But he picked up his third foul just 39 seconds into the second half and had to watch from the bench for nine minutes as Maryland sweated out a harder-than-it-had-to-be 80-65 victory. Gist totaled 26 points.
The result won't exactly sway the NCAA tournament selection committee.
After all, Georgia Tech has now lost 16 straight road games and 13 in a row on the home courts of Atlantic Coast Conference opponents. So for Maryland, last night's victory wasn't so much impressive as desperately necessary.
Despite a 16-5 record and an impressive No. 36 RPI ranking, Maryland was the final team included in ESPN's projected NCAA bracket published yesterday. Their modest records in ACC play (2-4) and on the road (1-3) are factors that must be improved if they hope to snap their two-year tournament drought.
Like his team, Gist was having a nice (but hardly noteworthy) season before last night. He arrived at Maryland 21/2 years ago from Silver Spring's Good Counsel High School with Joe Smith-like athleticism and potential. But he has played more like Travis Garrison. Before last night, he had scored in double figures in 15 of 20 games, but never more than 17 in any game.