Terps' 18-0 start finishes off Florida State, 89-62

UM overcomes obstacles to keep Seminoles on hold

January 12, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Neither foul trouble nor a shortage of players nor the hottest scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference could slow down the Maryland Terrapins yesterday. And the rest of the Florida State Seminoles could offer only feeble resistance at best.

This was supposed to the much-improved, up-and-coming Seminoles at Comcast Center. But No. 21 Maryland, which has had its way with Florida State in recent years, turned back the clock by scoring the game's first 18 points, then blowing out the Seminoles, 89-62, before a sellout crowd of 17,950.

The Terps (9-3, 2-0) expected a tough visit. Florida State entered the game with the nation's second-best field-goal percentage defense and sharp-shooting junior guard Tim Pickett, the ACC's fourth-leading scorer who had averaged 26 points in his previous three games.

Maryland confronted more adversity before and shortly after tip-off. Junior forward/center Jamar Smith was unavailable after traveling home to Sicklerville, N.J., to attend his grandfather's funeral. Then, early foul trouble put senior center Ryan Randle on the bench, where he stayed for 17 first-half minutes.

But none of it mattered. The Terps, who got scoring production from 10 players, opened a huge early lead and proceeded to abuse the Seminoles (9-4, 0-2) like old times in front of Leonard Hamilton, their new coach. The rout marked Maryland's 14th victory in 16 tries against Florida State, which has fallen by an average of 22 points to the Terps in their past eight defeats at Maryland's hand.

By winning their fifth straight game and their 14th consecutive regular-season ACC contest dating 23 months, the Terps tuned up nicely for their first league road trip at No. 17 Wake Forest on Wednesday.

"We're growing up real fast. We have no choice," said Terps senior forward Tahj Holden, who backed up Randle in Smith's place and scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds and blocked three shots. "We're not there yet, but I like how things are progressing."

There was nothing not to like about Maryland's performance.

The Terps shared the ball and shot the ball well, made their free throws, and stayed after the Seminoles with stifling, man-to-man defense. They owned Florida State inside and dug into their bench out of necessity to counter foul trouble.

That produced some interesting lineups, all of which were productive, especially when they involved Holden or senior guard Calvin McCall (10 points, six rebounds, four assists), who played his best game of the season.

At times, the Terps turned to four-guard looks, with McCall playing power forward and freshman Nik Caner-Medley playing center. Holden played his best power game of the season by taking it to the Seminoles down low.

Senior guard Drew Nicholas set the tone in more ways than one. Besides leading all scorers with 23 points on 7-for-14 shooting and a 7-for-7 show at the foul line, Nicholas grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, added four assists and never stopped chasing Pickett. The Seminoles' standout finished with a team-high 15 points, but did not score for the game's first 11 minutes.

By the time Pickett scored on an 18-foot jumper with 8:55 left in the half, Maryland was rolling with a 31-9 advantage, and Florida State had missed 18 of its first 21 shots.

"It started with me getting up defensively, and the rest of my game went from there," Nicholas said. "We were just playing straight man-to-man, but I was the only guy who wasn't allowed to help [any other defender]. I just stayed on Pickett. When you get out to a big lead the way we did, it really helps everybody's confidence."

The Terps suddenly are making a habit out of the great start. After breaking out to 20-4 leads in nonconference victories over Wagner and Hampton, Maryland threw down the hammer at the outset again. By the time the Terps had sprinted to a 25-7 lead with 12:22 left in the first half, six players had scored. Four had made three-point shots.

"I like our mental preparation. I think we're doing a pretty good job of getting ready," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Our goal this year is to see how good we can get. And if we're willing to work, if we know how to play defense well enough, we can stop teams."

The Terps stopped the Seminoles cold, allowing them to shoot 33.8 percent and forcing a glut of early turnovers to spark the runaway first half. Maryland made six of its first seven shots, made 53.4 percent of them overall, and never went cold for significant stretches.

It didn't matter who was shooting the ball. While Florida State was missing open shots early, growing more undisciplined and not holding up under Maryland's defensive pressure, the Terps were hitting the Seminoles from all angles. Consider that, after Nicholas had turned a steal into a layup to give Maryland a 39-17 lead with four minutes left in the first half, eight Terps had scored - and none had reached double figures.

After falling behind at the half, 46-26, the closest Florida State would get was 48-31 with 18:31 left in the game.

Then, Maryland went in for the kill and produced a 20-5 run that knocked out the Seminoles for good. Nicholas started the run with a three-point play, fueled it with an alley-oop layup and an 18-footer from the left wing, then watched McCall bury a three-pointer to complete it, giving the Terps a 68-36 advantage with 12:02 left.

"You have to give Maryland a lot of credit. They're focused, they've been there, they've done that, they understand," said Hamilton of the defending ACC regular-season champions. "We dug a hole for ourselves and obviously it was so deep we could never get out of it."

Next for Terps

Matchup: No. 21 Maryland (9-3) vs. No. 17 Wake Forest (10-0)

Site: Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem, N.C.

When: Wednesday, 9 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

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