Terps survive in OT

No. 23 Maryland holds off upset bid by struggling Florida State, 90-88

`I knew it wasn't going to be easy'

Jones, Bowers step in, play key roles in ACC opener

December 20, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The heroes were many for the Maryland Terrapins last night, from John Gilchrist, whose two free throws with 6.6 seconds left accounted for the winning points over Florida State, to sophomore Mike Jones, who sat for nearly 25 minutes before making a three-pointer to give Maryland a late lead.

There was sophomore guard D.J. Strawberry, whose five straight points enabled the Terps to dig themselves out of an early overtime deficit, and sophomore center Will Bowers, who played the finest game of his Maryland career at a time when the Terps badly needed it.

But only when Seminoles guard Von Wafer's last-second three-point shot rimmed out with Bowers grabbing his career-high fifth rebound, could the 23rd-ranked Terps exhale, celebrating a 90-88, overtime victory before 17,950 at Comcast Center in the team's Atlantic Coast Conference opener.

"It's been a rough week, and tonight put a topping on it," said Terps coach Gary Williams. "I knew it wasn't going to be easy. I'm proud of our guys. We went through a lot of adversity this week. ... To get through this and get a win, that's a good sign."

It was a dramatic way for the Terps, who spent the week worried about exams, to begin the rigors of the ACC season.

"It's definitely critical that you get any win you can in this league, especially at home," said Gilchrist, who had 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, all team highs, with the rebound total being a career high. "We had to be the last team standing."

They were - barely. From Williams' vantage point, Wafer's last shot looked good. "It scraped the rim a little there," Williams joked.

Maryland (6-2) seemed to have the game in control - they led by double digits with 14 minutes left - but things started slipping away late in the second half against an opponent that had already been beaten by Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Florida International.

The Terps' top two post players, Ekene Ibekwe (13 points) and Travis Garrison had already fouled out, forcing Williams to go with essentially three guards, a small forward playing power forward (Nik Caner-Medley) and a power forward (James Gist, 11 points) playing center. Adam Waleskowski, the Seminoles' 6-foot-8 forward who exploited the Terps' undersized lineup with 23 points and 14 rebounds, gave the Seminoles (5-5) their first lead of the night at 79-78 with 1:40 to play.

Chris McCray, one of six Terps in double figures, hit two free throws to give Maryland an 80-79 lead, but the Seminoles' Al Thornton then made one of two free throws to tie the game.

McCray passed up a wide-open look at the top of the key with 10 seconds to play as Williams wanted the Terps to hold for the last shot. Caner-Medley, who shot just 4-of-15, then air-balled a desperation attempt right before the buzzer as the game headed to overtime.

The Seminoles would score the first four points of overtime to take an 84-80 lead before Strawberry started to assert himself. He made one of two free throws on three consecutive trips, and then made a steal and converted a layup on the other end for an 85-84 Terps lead with 2:10 to play in the extra session.

Seconds earlier, Williams, off what he called a gut feeling, inserted Jones, who had played just two minutes to that point, for a spark and Bowers (two blocks and career-high five rebounds) to help on the boards.

Jones made a three-pointer to give the Terps an 88-86 edge with 40 seconds to play.

"I thought if I was open, I'd take the shot," Jones said. "I knew coach was eventually going to put me in the game."

Said Williams: "Our bench [was] incredible. ... Mike was great. He could've been pouting that he didn't play. That could be what he needs for the rest of his career."

After Jason Rich tied the game with 31 seconds to go, Thornton was called for a reach-in on Gilchrist, who made two free throws.

"I thought Maryland pushed all the right buttons during the crucial parts of the game," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said.

A loss last year in their ACC opener to the Seminoles was the start of a roller-coaster league season for Maryland. Strawberry expressed hope that last night's victory starts something entirely different for the Terps, who now play three straight non-league games before resuming ACC play on Jan. 8 at North Carolina.

"If we would have lost today, it would have probably ruined Christmas and New Year's," Strawberry said. "It was definitely a huge win."

Next for Maryland

Matchup: No. 23 Maryland (6-2) vs. American (5-2)

Site: Comcast Center, College Park

When: Thursday, 8 p.m.

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

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