Maryland hits high note, but which song is next?

Williams: Win over No. 1 needs to `make us better'

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

COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland Terrapins are growing up fast, and adding gray hairs to their coach in the process.

The Terps went full circle during an eight-day, four-game stretch. They played three ranked teams that brought out the best and worst in them, played three overtime contests, and dropped ranked opponents at home and on the road. It remains to be seen what Maryland does after hitting its highest note in an up-and-down-and-up season.

Wednesday's 69-68 upset victory in overtime at No. 1 Florida was quite a gift for Williams, who celebrated his 300th victory at Maryland with his sixth victory over a top-ranked school - tops among active Atlantic Coast Conference coaches.

It was the product of tenacious defense and the resilience of youth, from sophomore forward Travis Garrison's game-winning, 18-foot shot that marked his only scoring, to sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley's heroic, 22-point, 13-rebound effort to freshman guard D.J. Strawberry's running the point deftly in overtime, when he also made two heady plays by taking a charge and forcing a critical tie-up.

The Florida victory, played before a packed house at O'Connell Center, where the fans jeered the Maryland players and coaches and drew several warnings for tossing debris on to the floor in light of unfavorable calls, righted the Terps after a disastrous outing last weekend.

Maryland was beaten easily by No. 17 Gonzaga and in overtime by unranked West Virginia at the BB&T Classic, after beating No. 15 Wisconsin 10 days ago, also in overtime. After missing a chance to break into the Top 25 on Sunday, then gutting out their first road test, the Terps expect to be ranked next week for the first time this season.

"I can't age too much more, but I hope the team has aged quite a bit. We've been through everything, every emotion you could possibly go through," said Williams, 58, who turned and thrust his fist at the hostile crowd once time ran out on the Gators.

"It's been a great week for our team in terms of learning. How do we react to this win? That's the key. We've got to make this make us better."

Maryland overcame so much to boost its record to 5-2 and drop a No. 1 for the ninth time in school history, and only the second time on the road. The Terps upset top-ranked North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1986 under former coach Lefty Driesell.

The Terps' offense was tremendous for the game's first 25 minutes, leading to a 51-34 lead. Then it went into a shooting slump and a turnover spurt that led to a nine-point drought in the final 15 minutes of regulation. But behind Caner-Medley's six overtime points, Maryland put up nine points in the extra period and erased Florida leads twice.

Maryland once again failed at the foul line, making just eight of 18 free throws, but made a season-high seven three-pointers in 17 attempts. They committed 20 turnovers, but battled the Gators gamely on the boards and blocked 10 shots. And they won despite losing sophomore point John Gilchrist (18 points), who fouled out with 11.8 seconds left in regulation.

Garrison, senior center Jamar Smith and sophomore guard Chris McCray shot a combined 8-for-30. Caner-Medley had a double double by halftime, then showed fire in overtime. He savored the victory for additional reasons.

"I've been to Duke and that atmosphere. But I've never heard some of the things I heard from their fans," Caner-Medley said. "You can say things about the players, but when you start talking about our parents, that's beyond being fans. It fired me up a lot. That's what makes it feel extra good."

"I've heard it all before. It doesn't bother me," said Strawberry, whose father, Darryl, attended the game. "I never even looked at the crowd."

Maryland showed much mettle. In a physical game marked by 51 fouls and a few brief shoving matches, the Terps survived with essentially a six-man team, with Strawberry the sixth man.

Freshman center Will Bowers (Spalding), who had played a total of three minutes in Maryland's previous five games, played nine minutes and had one rebound and one blocked shot. Freshman forward Ekene Ibekwe (two points, two rebounds) played only nine minutes. Junior forward Mike Grinnon was inserted for the first time with 23.4 seconds left in regulation and committed a traveling violation that nearly cost the Terps dearly.

But Maryland survived to conclude a home-and-home series with the Gators that featured two losses by the home team.

"When you have a nothing-to-lose mentality, there's nothing that can stop you," Gilchrist said.

Next for Terps

Matchup: Pepperdine (2-4) vs. Maryland (5-2)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

When: Sunday, 5:30 p.m.

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

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