Seminoles pounce on error-prone Terps

UM falls into 18-4 hole, commits 24 turnovers in 79-75 loss to Fla. State

College Basketball

December 29, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Maryland Terrapins probably will not be allowed to operate on most nights in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a large margin of error. On a night when a more experienced Florida State team was lying in wait, the No. 24 Terps committed a bounty of mistakes for which they paid a handsome price.

From the beginning of last night's 79-75 loss to the Seminoles before 8,074 at the Leon County Civic Center - marking Maryland's first setback in an ACC opener in four years - the Terps were short on poise and passion. They were careless with the ball, impatient with their shot selection. They looked like the league's youngest team taking its first road trip in an unforgiving conference.

Maryland (7-3, 0-1), which committed a season-high 24 turnovers, fell behind 18-4 before many fans had been seated and was forced to labor the rest of the way to give itself a chance to win. To their credit, the Terps asserted enough talent and defensive effort to charge back and take a slim, first-half lead before easing out to a 56-51 advantage with 10:20 left to play.

But Florida State, which starts four seniors, has a dynamic young bench and suffered a long line of misery at Maryland's hand, slapped the Terps aside over the next four minutes with a decisive, 16-2 run that put the Seminoles in front 67-58 with 6:23 left. The Terps never seriously threatened after that.

For the Seminoles (11-1, 1-0), it was time to celebrate some payback after losing five in a row and 15 of its previous 16 games against Maryland. Florida State, which had beaten 10 unranked and mostly unimpressive opponents before yesterday, also showed it might be turning the corner toward becoming an ACC contender.

Far from perfect, starting with its 40 percent shooting, Florida State showed grit and composure and depth, starting with freshman reserves Alexander Johnson and Von Wafer. Johnson, a 6-foot-10 forward, led the team with 14 points, nine of which he scored during that telling, 16-2 spurt. Wafer, a 6-5 guard, had 11 points, five of which came during that big run.

Senior guard Tim Pickett, held scoreless in the first half, scored 13 points after halftime. And the Seminoles were strong in the clutch, making 14 of their final 16 free throws.

Sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley and sophomore guards John Gilchrist and Chris McCray each scored 15 points for the Terps, who were so disgusted with their performance that they questioned their own hunger and work habits after flopping while playing their second game in two weeks.

"We have to stop all of the nonsense and playing around that's going on. A lot of people don't really understand the intensity of the ACC. I've got to give Florida State credit. They played good. We just played bad," Gilchrist said.

"You can't come in and give a team confidence when you're on the road. We got the crowd into the game, and they knew they could play with us. That was a terrible display of basketball in the first few minutes. It ain't nothing but a reality check for everybody."

Added McCray: "We didn't have good practices all last week after final exams. Everybody was sleeping in until an hour before practice, joking around, not working hard. We just weren't focused. We came in here thinking it was going to be a cakewalk, and we paid for it."

Maryland absorbed the cost in many areas. In the first half, despite confronting almost exclusively man-to-man defenses, they settled for 13 three-point attempts and displayed virtually no interest in cutting or passing.

And the good shots wouldn't fall. Caner-Medley shot 6-for-15. Senior center Jamar Smith (eight points, 11 rebounds) shot 4-for-12 and missed all four of his free-throw attempts. Backups D.J. Strawberry and Ekene Ibekwe shot a combined 6-for-17.

The Terps are firmly in a foul-shooting funk, after making only 10 of 18 overall and five of 12 in the second half. But those 24 turnovers, coupled with only 11 assists, really got to Maryland coach Gary Williams.

"That's a joke. You can't win a close game against a good team with 24 turnovers," Williams said. "We were tentative all day. We settled for quick shots, dropped some balls, missed some easy shots, a little bit of everything. Our free-throw shooting continues to be a problem. The way I look at it, we were fortunate to be in there [with a chance] at the end."

The game was marked by highly physical post play, and most of Maryland's frontcourt were in foul trouble as a result. And the tone was set with that 18-4 hole the Terps dug with 15:28 left in the first half.

Next for Terps

Matchup:No. 24 Maryland (7-3) vs. Mount St. Mary's (2-8)

Site:Comcast Center, College Park

When:Saturday, 2 p.m.

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

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