UM drops No. 1 Fla. in OT

Terps lose 17-point lead with 2nd-half cold spell, rebound for 69-68 upset

"We showed great character"

Garrison hits jump shot to win it

Williams gets 300th victory at Maryland

December 11, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - They watched a huge lead melt away, only to find themselves trying to survive in yet another overtime contest. Their starting point guard fouled out just before the extra period. They nearly buckled under the pressure that comes with playing in the so- called House of Horrors against the nation's No. 1 team.

Still, the Maryland Terrapins would not quit against the Florida Gators last night. The Terps somehow did just enough to reverse their recent course and inject new spark into an unpredictable season.

If you thought the Terps were reeling after getting swept last weekend for the first time in the history of the BB&T Classic, think again.

Maryland sent a different message at sold-out O"Connell Center, where the Terps blew a 17-point second-half lead, fell behind twice in overtime, but got a game-winning, 18-foot jumper from sophomore forward Travis Garrison, whose only points of the contest gave the Terps a 69-68 victory.

Garrison's first basket of the night came with 18.4 seconds left in overtime, giving coach Gary Williams his 300th victory at Maryland and putting the Terps (5-2) back on their feet again against the Gators (5-1).

What a way to avoid the program's first three-game losing streak in nearly three years. What a way to beat a top-ranked opponent for the ninth time in school history. The Terps did it by grinding through their third overtime game of the season.

"We certainly haven't been consistent this year. Somehow, we found the toughness to go out there and play tonight." said Williams, whose Terps stopped Florida's 40-game winning streak at home against non-conference opponents.

"I was really proud of Travis. He's been struggling, and he had the guts to take a shot like that in that situation. I know we blew a 17-point lead. I guess we"re going to be the type of team that plays in spurts."

"Sometimes it's grimy and you have to grind a win out." said point guard John Gilchrist, who fouled out with 12 seconds left in regulation, after scoring 18 points. "We showed great character."

Maryland flashed it in spades. There was sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley, who scored the Terps" first six points in overtime and finished with 22, along with a career-high 13 rebounds. There was senior center Jamar Smith, who produced his sixth double double of the season with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

There was freshman D.J. Strawberry, who played a career-high 26 minutes, many of them as Gilchrist's backup, including the five-minute extra period, and finished with just one turnover. And there was Garrison, who missed five of six shots, but hit the big one.

"I was struggling the whole night." Garrison said. "But that's my shot. I have to take that shot and make that shot."

It was an emotional night, marked by the rowdiness of the Florida fans, who were warned several times not to throw objects on the floor.

Maryland was nearly kicking into cruise control in the first five minutes of the second half, as the Terps stretched a 12-point halftime lead to 51-34 with 15:10 remaining in the second half. Caner-Medley made a pair of three-pointers during the run, which was punctuated by transition layups by Gilchrist and Smith and a 15-foot baseline jumper by Ekene Ibekwe, who finished the run.

But the Terps, as has been their tendency this season, went into a prolonged scoring drought and managed just nine points the rest of the way in regulation. The only baskets Maryland produced over that stretch were dunks coming off of steals by Strawberry and Gilchrist, whose jam made it 55-40 with 8:57 left.

The Terps showed great poise in the early going by putting together their best half of the season. Maryland ran excellent offense, controlled the tempo, out- worked Florida on the boards and frustrated the Gators" shooters while rolling to a 16-point lead and an eventual 39-27 halftime edge.

Florida struggled badly with its shooting and shot selection, making only nine of its 36 first- half field-goal attempts. Forwards David Lee and Christian Drejer shot a combined 1-for-16.

The Terps solved Florida's zone and man-to-man alignments with regularity and repeatedly beat the Gators down the floor in transition and came up with most of the loose balls. Caner-Medley had already recorded a double double with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds by the half.

Sparked by Gilchrist (12 first- half points), the Terps bolted to a 15-4 lead in the first six minutes. Gilchrist made a three- pointer from the right corner and drove the baseline to beat the zone with a reverse layup to set the tone. Caner-Medley fueled it with a three-pointer and an off-balance baseline leaner. Smith's fast-break layup made it 15-4.

By then, the Gators had missed 10 of their first 12 shots. Florida finally awakened with a 14-7 run, led by guards Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh, who scored five points each during the spurt that cut the Maryland lead to 22-18 with 9:32 left in the half.

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