COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Drew Nicholas had been there before. So
had fellow Maryland seniors Steve Blake, Ryan Randle and Tahj
And now the rest of the Terrapins know what it's like to play in
the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Nicholas scored a career-high 29 points and Randle led a
second-half charge as Maryland (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) opened defense of its ACC
title by beating Georgia Tech 84-77 on Sunday.
The defending national champion Terrapins had already lost to
non-conference foes Indiana, Notre Dame and Florida. This game,
however, was far more intense.
"I think a lot of young guys now understand when we talk about
how the ACC is just different," Nicholas said. "A different level
of competition, a different level of play. It was a war out
Nicholas had the floor burns to prove it.
"I was on the ground at least 20 times tonight," he said. "If
that's what I have to do to get this win, I'll take it."
Randle scored 16 of his 20 points after halftime, helping the
Terrapins (6-3, 1-0) escape with their ninth straight home victory
over the Yellow Jackets.
Maryland, which captured the ACC regular-season title last year
on the way to its first national championship, extended its
conference winning streak to a school-record 13 games.
"I told the new players, 'Welcome to the ACC,'" Maryland coach
Gary Williams said.
"It exceeded my expectations," said Maryland freshman John
Gilchrist, who played 20 minutes off the bench. "It was so great
just to be able to step on the floor after growing up and watching
it on TV. The intensity and energy is so high, it's awesome."
B.J. Elder had 19 points and Chris Bosh added 16 for the Yellow
Jackets (5-4, 0-1), who have lost 12 of 14 to Maryland since
"There are some positives to take out of the game, but I told
the kids it will only be a positive if we build on it," Georgia
Tech coach Paul Hewitt said.
Maryland was clinging to a 52-51 lead before Randle made a
follow shot and a dunk in a 6-0 run. Minutes later, Randle hit a
10-foot jumper and Nicholas scored on a drive to make it 69-64 with
After a Georgia Tech free throw, Nicholas hit a 3-pointer and
Randle scored from the baseline to give the Terrapins a nine-point
cushion with three minutes remaining.
"It was just a fight," Nicholas said. "They're going to beat
a lot of teams in this league. They're very talented."
Maryland outscored Georgia Tech 12-1 at the line in taking a
36-30 halftime lead. The Terrapins trailed 28-25 before freshman
Nik Caner-Medley scored five points in a 9-0 run that put Maryland
After the margin reached seven points early in the second half,
the Yellow Jackets used a 12-4 run to take a 48-47 lead with 14:54
Nicholas then scored from beyond the arc to put Maryland ahead
"The second half our guys played very hard, but they were
overanxious and turned the ball over too many times," Hewitt said.
Georgia Tech finished with 20 turnovers, seven by freshman guard
Playing their first game in eight days, the Yellow Jackets
looked more fresh than rusty in the opening minutes. Bosh scored
off the glass and then on a drive to cap a 6-0 run that put Georgia
Tech up 11-4.
But Nicholas scored seven points and Holden had five in a 16-6
surge that gave Maryland its first lead, 20-17, midway through the
Holden, who missed the Terrapins' last game because of a death
in the family, did not start for the first time this season. The
6-foot-10 forward finished with 11 points.
Maryland was without senior guard Calvin McCall, who was in
street clothes after spraining his left ankle in practice Saturday.