COLLEGE PARK -- The perfect ending yesterday for Maryland would have been for Wayne Bristol's three-point shot to fall against Florida State. Coach Gary Williams and his Terrapins would have run joyfully off the court at noisy Cole Field House, celebrating their first Atlantic Coast Conference victory of the season.
But this is Maryland's imperfect season, and its frustration continues.
Bristol's 21-foot shot with five seconds to play in regulation was wide right, and an emotional comeback from an early 14-point deficit was defused quickly by the Seminoles in over time. Florida State scored nine of the first 10 points in overtime and ran away with a 91-83 victory before 13,360.
"I was really pleased with the effort the team made when we got down like we did," said Williams. "We have to find a way to start better, obviously. It was really a gut check for us after we lost the first four in the conference. We had our chances, it just seemed like there was a mountain to climb."
But the Terps stumbled when they reached the top. What would have been another in a list of come-from-behind victories Maryland has achieved under Williams turned into its seventh straight defeat, its fifth straight without a victory in the ACC. It marks the first time this season that the Terps (7-8) are under .500.
The loss, marred already by what could be a season-ending leg (( injury for senior forward Garfield Smith, ruined another spectacular effort by senior guard Walt Williams. The ACC's leading scorer finished with a game-high 30 points, becoming the first player in Maryland history to score at least 30 in three straight games. He also had seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
"I thought that was the best defensive game he's played," said Gary Williams. "He really made the effort inside. Florida State's guards are very quick, but he didn't let them blow by him. Walt can be that kind of player. He's as talented as they come."
But Williams could not overcome the talent Florida State (9-4, 3-2) threw at Maryland, and the Terps couldn't quite overcome the large deficits they faced throughout the afternoon. Maryland trailed by 27-13 with less than 12 minutes left in the first half and, after cutting it to 44-40 by halftime, found itself behind by 68-58 with 7 minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the game.
Maryland tied the game at 74 on a three-point shot by Williams with 1:49 to go and, after a 19-footer by Florida State forward Douglas Edwards 26 seconds later, tied it again at 76 on a pair of free throws by Evers Burns. Edwards then missed an 8-foot turnaround with 22 seconds left, and Vince Broadnax got the rebound. The Terps called timeout with 16 seconds remaining.
"We knew they would double or triple-team Walt; he gets it most of the game anyway," said Gary Williams. "We figured either Wayne or Kevin [McLinton] would wind up with the shot. We got a pretty good shot."
After Williams dribbled past midcourt, three Florida State players jumped out at him. He swung the ball across to Bristol, to the left of the top of the three-point line. Bristol, a freshman who had hit two of his first three three-point tries yesterday, went up for the shot.
"I thought it was going to be all net," said Bristol. "It surprised the hell out of me when it didn't go in."
Said Kerwin, "When we didn't get that shot, it seemed like we ran out of gas."
Running on empty is dangerous against the high-octane Seminoles. Florida State, which scored nearly half of its points in transition, scored quickly on a rebound dunk by Rodney Dobard. After the teams exchanged free throws, two turnovers and a blocked shot against the Terps turned into three fast-break layups by Florida State.
"When we went into the overtime, me and Rodney picked up our intensity and hit the boards," said Edwards, who finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds. "I think they got tired trying to chase us all day."
The victory was the third for Florida State in four games on the road in its first ACC season, and its second straight overtime win in three tries. Former Dunbar star Sam Cassell, who scored 22 points against North Carolina and 34 at Wake Forest, finished with 20.
Maryland plays its next two games at home, Thursday against the Demon Deacons and Saturday against Clemson. The Terps will likely will play the rest of the season without Smith, who fractured his left tibia, or shinbone, in a freak collision with Bristol in the first half.
"I tell the players never to feel sorry for themselves," said Gary Williams. "But I feel sorry for Garfield. He's done a great job with his life just to get to Maryland. He won some big games for us last year."
But not this year.
There seem to be no perfect endings this year.
NOTES: Kerwin, who had started in place of Smith the past 2 games, played his best game since coming to Maryland, finishing with 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals. McLinton was 1-for-13. Burns had 12 points and 10 rebounds.