Caner-Medley scored a career-high 33 points and Maryland (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 18 AP) shook off the loss of its leading scorer for an 86-74 victory over slumping Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
Not that Caner-Medley's considers himself a replacement for McCray, who was suspended from the team for academic reasons earlier in the week, ending his college career.
"He's a guy you can't replace," said Caner-Medley, who is McCray's roommate and close friend. "But we have some guys who are ready to step up."
No one stepped up more than Caner-Medley, who was 8-of-12 from the field, which included making both 3-point attempts, and continually got to the foul line with his strong play inside. He hit 15-of-16 free throws.
Georgia Tech started out with freshman D'Andre Bell trying to guard Caner-Medley. That didn't work, and no one else had much success, either.
"When you lose a guy like [McCray], you know they're going to come out with a lot of emotion in their first few games," Yellow Jackets coach Paul Hewitt said. "Caner-Medley did a great job. He turned D'Andre inside out. When he's making 3s, we have no answers for him."
Gary Williams tied Lefty Driesell as the winningest coach in Maryland history, and this one was easier than might have been expected considering McCray was not only Maryland's top scorer (15.2 points) but also its defensive catalyst.
"Now, we know we can win" without McCray, Williams said. "That's important. It's big to get that win tonight. I know we would have gotten it sooner or later, but it's nice to get in that first game."
The Terrapins (14-4, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) manhandled the Yellow Jackets, who have their first four-game losing streak since a five-game skid in 2002-03. Things don't get any easier for Georgia Tech (9-8, 2-4), which plays five of its next seven games on the road.
"We've got our backs to the wall right now. We know that," guard Mario West said. "But we can't stop fighting."
Maryland tied a school record by making 41 free throws, missing only four attempts. The Terrapins equaled the mark set in a 1994 victory over Morgan State, when they went 41-of-67.
Also, it was the most free throws made by a Georgia Tech opponent, easily breaking the previous record of 37 by Yale in 1973.
Caner-Medley, who was averaging 13.8 points, knew he had to take on more of a scoring role. Nine of the senior's points came during a 13-1 spurt that helped the Terrapins pull away before the midway point of the second half.
In fact, Caner-Medley scored the last seven points in the run -- hitting a jumper and then a 3-pointer and finally splitting the defense for a lay-in that put Maryland up 63-45 with 11:08 remaining.
Caner-Medley surpassed his previous career high of 23 points, which he had done twice -- most recently in the Terrapins' previous game, a victory over Virginia Tech.
"That's what you want your seniors to do," Williams said. "I think Nik is starting too realize how good he can be when he looks after every part of his game."
As the Terrapins pushed their lead to as many as 21 points, Georgia Tech's frustration boiled over. Hewitt was slapped with a technical for repeated complaints about the officiating. West put a hard foul on Travis Garrison. Anthony Morrow was called for an intentional foul on Caner-Medley.
Even Williams briefly got into it with some Georgia Tech students near his team's bench when they heckled D.J. Strawberry -- son of troubled former major-league baseball star Darryl Strawberry
-- in the closing minutes.
"I heard one cheer that I didn't like," Williams said. "That's me. I'm going to protect my players."
For the most part, though, it was a relaxing night for the hyper Maryland coach, who has 348 wins in 17 seasons with the Terrapins. That ties him with the ol' left-hander for the most in school history.
"Lefty came in and got that place rolling," said Williams, whose overall record improved to 555-310. "I learned a lot from Lefty Driesell. He's a big part of Maryland history. It's a compliment for me to be tied with Lefty, that's for sure."
Morrow and Ra'Sean Dickey each scored 18 points to lead the Yellow Jackets, who shot 37 percent and managed just one field goal in an 11½-minute stretch of the second half.
"It seemed like a lot of balls rolled right off the rim," Hewitt said. "We were getting some good looks. They just wouldn't fall."
Mike Jones took McCray's spot in the starting lineup and scored 12 points.
"Everybody's been saying they want to see how good Mike Jones is," Williams said. "Well, he's a pretty good player."