UM stops skid, fights off feisty Florida State

Avoiding 3rd loss in row, No. 16 Terps alone in 2nd in ACC after 74-72 win

`Had to dig down ... find a way'

Nicholas scores 20 points

Blake hits three-pointer, adds 4 free throws late

February 13, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Maryland Terrapins took over sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Coast Conference, became the first ACC team to win three road games in league play this season, and beat last-place Florida State for the fifth consecutive time last night, and it was anything but easy.

Senior point guard Steve Blake scored Maryland's last seven points by making a crucial three-point shot with 2:36 remaining and converting four straight free throws in the final 17 seconds, as the No. 16 Terps came from behind late to edge the Seminoles, 74-72, at the Leon County Civic Center.

Maryland (15-6, 7-3) avoided its first three-game losing streak in two years and beat Florida State (11-10, 2-8) for the 15th time in the past 16 meetings between the teams.

The Terps, who play host to league-leading Wake Forest on Sunday, had to have this one. And did Maryland ever have to sweat its way to victory over a Florida State squad that hardly resembled the unit that got pounded by 27 points in College Park last month.

In a contest that featured six ties and four lead changes, Blake had the last word. The Seminoles had erased a 63-54 Maryland lead with 7:05 left in the game and had taken a 67-65 lead when Terps senior guard Drew Nicholas scored the last two of his game-high 20 points on a layup to tie the score at 67 with 3:14 left.

Then, after a missed layup by Florida State backup center Trevor Harvey, Blake quieted the rowdy crowd of 7,436 by drilling a 25-foot shot from the right corner off of a nice feed from Nicholas, making it 70-67. The teams then combined to miss their next five shots, before a layup by Seminoles backup point guard Todd Galloway cut the Terps' lead to 70-69 with 17.5 seconds left.

Over the next 12 seconds, Blake dashed any Florida State comeback hopes by calmly making four consecutive free throws. Nicholas had missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity before Blake finished the Seminoles.

"I wanted to shoot them. If anyone is going to get fouled down the stretch, I want to be the one to ice the game," said Blake, who finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists and stood in the middle of a noisy post-game locker room.

"This win feels as big as any win we've had this year. We're coming off of two losses, we're feeling down, we needed a spark. A win like this is thrilling, because we need this to get going again."

Maryland coach Gary Williams said: "I'm proud of the team because it is really hard to win when you don't have all of your confidence. We had to dig down and find a way tonight. Florida State has really improved over the year. Steve Blake has done it for us for four years, and he's done it when the game is on the line. We're really going to miss him."

The Terps had every chance to fold. Harvey scored 15 second-half points en route to a career-high, 19-point night. Seminoles point guard Nate Johnson scored all of his career-high 14 points in the first half, when Florida State erased an early, 14-4 Maryland lead and took a 31-29 advantage before trailing at the half, 38-33.

But the Seminoles, who got 12 points from guard Tim Pickett and 10 from backup point guard Todd Galloway, could not finish their final comeback attempt, which was fueled by a technical foul on senior forward Tahj Holden with 5:52 left and the Terps ahead, 63-56.

Maryland, which struggled to run its half-court offense at times before seemingly gaining control midway through the second half with strong inside play from Holden (11 points, nine rebounds) and senior center Ryan Randle (10 points, eight rebounds), maintained its composure when it counted.

The Terps made 20 of 23 free throws, overcame another sub-par shooting night (38.3 percent) and protected the ball smartly down the stretch.

Florida State lost its edge after catching the Terps for the last time. The Seminoles, who committed only one turnover in the second half after recording 12 early, missed six of their last eight shots. And with the Terps on top 72-69 after Blake's first two clutch free throws, Johnson drove the lane looking to get fouled, missed a layup, and watched Blake clinch the victory.

"Down the stretch, we had four putback layups that we just couldn't put down," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It's obvious that our kids are giving a tremendous effort. Less unforced errors in the second half gave us a chance to win the game. But the end result is Maryland made more plays than we did."

Next for Terps

Matchup: No. 16 Maryland (15-6) vs. No. 15 Wake Forest (16-3)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

When: Sunday, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Maryland Min FG FT Reb A F Pt

Caner-Medley 17 0-4 0-0 4 0 3 0

Randle 28 3-8 4-4 8 1 3 10

Holden 31 2-8 6-6 9 2 4 11

Nicholas 34 7-14 3-5 2 3 2 20

Blake 35 3-9 6-6 5 4 3 15

Smith 15 2-4 1-2 2 0 2 5

Garrison 5 1-1 0-0 1 0 1 2

McCall 21 3-7 0-0 7 3 1 6

Gilchrist 10 1-3 0-0 0 3 0 2

McCray 4 1-2 0-0 0 1 1 3

Totals 200 23-60 20-23 38 17 20 74

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