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Maryland pulls away in second half to top High Point

Nov 24, 2006 - 8:46 PM COLLEGE PARK, Maryland (Ticker) -- Maryland coach Gary Williams must have got his message across at halftime.

Ekene Ibekwe and D.J. Strawberry combined for 31 points and the 24th-ranked Terrapins pulled away in the second half for an 81-63 victory over High Point.

Senior reserve guard Parrish Brown contributed to the big second half with five quick points for the Terrapins (7-0), who have won seven straight games to open the season for the first time since the 1998-99 season.

"It's a great feeling, but we can't be satisfied," Maryland forward James Gist said. "We're 7-0 and teams are going to start realizing that we're undefeated and start coming for us."

After winning its first seven games by an average of 21.2 points and not trailing by more than two, Maryland will be tested at Illinois on Tuesday.

"We have to be ready. We know Illinois is a tough place to play, so we have to come in tough and go in there and get that win," Gist added.

Ibekwe finished with 16 points and seven rebounds before leaving with two minutes left with an apparent ankle sprain. Strawberry finished with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Pesky High Point (3-3) trailed by just four points at the half before the more talented Maryland squad took control in the first 10 minutes after the break.

"We have to just make sure that we're playing our game," Strawberry said. "We got away from that a little bit in the first half, and we knew that we had to be ready to come out in the second half and step up our play.

"As a team, you're not going to have it every time you step on the court. We have to be mentally tough as a team and be ready to overcome games like that. This wasn't my best performance, but we picked it up in the second half and came away with the win, and that's what is most important."

A 9-2 run in the first 2 1/2 minutes, capped by a layup from Mike Jones, opened a 46-35 advantage.

"In the second half I thought we played with good defensive intensity, but we didn't play as smart as we can play," Williams said. "We've been a very smart team our first six games, but today we were not. Our bench really helped us keep our energy up, which is probably why we were able to pull away from our halftime lead."

After the Panthers moved within 52-45 five minutes later, Brown knocked down a 3-pointer, scored on a fast-break layup and fed a lob pass to Strawberry for another easy hoop to build the lead to 59-45.

"Parrish is good. He really stepped up and hit that big shot on the sideline that seemed to get the crowd in the game," Williams said. "He was aggressive and that's what we need. Our bench has to do that. Today was Parrish, the other day was Bambale (Osby). That's a good sign."

Freshman Greivis Vasquez completed the 9-0 blitz with two free throws.

Arizona Reid had 19 points and five rebounds for High Point, but he fouled out with 7:28 remaining and the Panthers trailing, 66-54. Maryland went on an immediate 12-3 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes to put way the game.

Mike Jefferson finished with 16 points for the Panthers, who shot 50 percent (27-of-54) from the field.

"I thought overall, we played hard," High Point coach Bart Lundy said. "We didn't handle their pressure early and they're long and athletic. ... We played 36 of 40 minutes and kept up, but let them take advantage at the end."

Gist finished with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and seven rebounds for the Terrapins, who shot 50 percent (28-of-56) from the floor and knocked down half of their 12 3-pointers.

Maryland's full-court press also forced 21 turnovers, equaling its season average.

An early 9-0 run, capped by a dunk by Osby, gave Maryland a 23-11 lead 10 minutes into the first half. But High Point hung around and closed out the half with 3-pointers by Gene Harris and Troy Bowen to trail, 33-31.

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