Gilchrist proves point against Felton, Heels

January 15, 2004|By MIKE PRESTON

COLLEGE PARK - North Carolina point guard Raymond Felton played well. He got the ball inside to center Sean May. He ran the fast break to near perfection in the first half. He hit some key shots and lived up to all the preseason hype.

There was only one problem.

Maryland point guard John Gilchrist was just as good, if not better, in a prelude to matchups in a conference dominated by good point guards. In a contest in which he had to turn up his game a notch, Gilchrist succeeded last night in Maryland's 90-84 upset of No. 9 North Carolina before nearly 18,000 at Comcast Center.

Entering the game, Maryland had to accomplish two things. The Terps had to control the 260-pound May and his strong inside game, and they had to contain Felton or match him.

Gilchrist matched him nearly step for step and pass for pass down to the last second. Along the way, Maryland negated North Carolina's transition game in the second half and finally hit some clutch foul shots in the final minutes to secure the win.

This was an intense game, one in which bodies were hurtling over the scorer's table in the final minute for loose balls. Felton made it interesting almost to the end when he found forward/guard Rashad McCants in the left corner for a three-point shot that brought the Tar Heels within 86-84 with 3.6 seconds left .

But Maryland scored on two foul shots and a field goal in the remaining time for the final margin of victory. Felton finished with 16 points, hitting five of 11 shots from the field and five of six from the foul line.

Gilchrist had 20 points and was 7-for-10 from the field, including 2-for-3 from three-point range and 4-for-4 from the foul line. Gilchrist had five assists and Felton had seven.

But Gilchrist left with the victory.

And it was a big one for an inexperienced Maryland team. During the next 15 days, the Terps have visits to No. 12 Georgia Tech and No. 4 Wake Forest, and a home game against No. 2 Duke. Just about every team in the ACC has good point guards.

Duke has Chris Duhon and Wake Forest has Justin Gray. Georgia Tech has B.J. Elder and Jarett Jack. So it's not going to get easier for Gilchrist.

Maryland coach Gary Williams wasn't happy with his team's 22 turnovers last night, but he has to be happy with the way the Terps fight and grind their way through games.

He was impressed with Gilchrist's play. It's not easy to be productive on the offensive end when you're chasing around perhaps the league's most explosive performer in Felton.

Gilchrist spent a lot of this week practicing against teammate D.J. Strawberry and assistant coach and former Terp Matt Kovarik. It's not easy to duplicate Felton.

"You can't duplicate Felton in practice," Williams said. "I had Matt Kovarik out there playing the point, but the problem is he wasn't quick when he played for us, so he hasn't gotten any quicker. We were trying to show how Carolina would push the ball up the court.

"I think a sign of maturity of our team was that we were able to adjust a little better in the second half."

Gilchrist didn't want to be outdone by Felton. He lived in his shadow in high school. Both players are sophomores.

"In high school, when I played against Felton, he definitely made me bring my A game because he was getting all the hype out of high school," Gilchrist said. "No knock against him because he is a great player, but I wanted to show I could play with him and the best guards in the country."

Both played well in the first half. Gilchrist was 5-for-8 from the field in the half for 13 points, with four assists. Felton was 3-for-5 from the field for 10 points, with four assists.

Felton certainly is the flashier of the two. He is just so smooth. He has the easy dribble and great court awareness of every player on the floor. He could play the point or shooting guard if he had to.

Gilchrist is just a point guard, a rugged, physical specimen who can blow by an opponent if he has to, or play the old bump-and-grind style of bringing it upcourt if needed.

"I thought Gilchrist was tough for us to handle," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. "We didn't do a very good job stopping his penetration. I know he broke down our defense a couple of times in the first half."

Felton said Gilchrist is "a good player. He got a couple of good drives on me where I didn't stay in front of him. For the most part, I made him shoot over me and he shot some tough shots. He's a sophomore, one of the leaders on the team, so of course he stepped his game up this year."

Felton and North Carolina's transition game were too much for the Terps in the first three minutes of the game, with the Tar Heels taking a 12-7 lead as Felton assisted on two fast-break baskets.

But Gilchrist was not going to be outdone. He hit a three-point shot with 16:10 left in the half, then scored on a layup nearly a minute later to cut Carolina's lead to 16-12. At one point, Felton scored six straight North Carolina points to forge a 39-30 Tar Heels lead with 7:05 left in the half.

Next for Terps

Matchup: No. 12 Georgia Tech (12-2, 0-1) vs. Maryland (10-3, 1-1)

Site: Alexander Memorial Coliseum, Atlanta

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

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

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