Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Maryland over Wisconsin in OT

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Who would step up for the Maryland Terrapins when it finally got down to crunch time this year? Would it be senior Jamar Smith or point guard John Gilchrist? Would Nik Caner-Medley or Chris McCray make the key plays, or would one of the freshmen come up big? Tonight, the answer was all of the above in the #25 Terps' 73-67 overtime win over the #13 Wisconsin Badgers.

Maryland held a 30-22 lead at halftime despite not making either a free throw or three-point shot. They did score 18 points in the paint and force 9 turnovers, more than the Badgers averaged per game coming in. The Terps closed the half with a 14-6 run, but could not sustain that momentum past halftime.

With Maryland still leading 35-28, Wisconsin's leading scorer Devin Harris woke up. Harris had scored only four points in the first half while being shadowed by Gilchrist, but he knocked down three three-pointers within 1:36 to draw the Badgers within 40-37. At this point, the battle was on.

In a game with an intensity level to match an important ACC contest, the younger Terps did not lose their composure while Wisconsin rallied. After the Badgers took a 43-42 lead, Caner Medley blocked two shots on the same defensive sequence and then sank a fadeaway jumper to put Maryland back in the lead 44-43.

Sandwiching another Harris three-pointer and a Mike Wilkinson jumper, McCray made two nice entry passes to Smith, who converted a layup and a turnaround jumper from the baseline to tie the score at 48-48 with less than seven minutes to play.

With Maryland ahead 54-50, McCray knocked down a three-point bomb to stretch the lead to seven with 3:30 to play, but the veteran Wisconsin team would not go away quietly. Six points by Harris, who would score 18 in the second half, put the Badgers within 59-56 with 1:33 to play (McCray had scored during Harris' run). The Terps turned the ball over on their next possession, but blocked shots by Caner-Medley and D. J. Strawberry gave the ball back to Maryland nursing a three-point lead.

Inexperience in tight games showed on the Terps' next time down the court, when Caner-Medley missed three-pointer with 20 seconds left on the shot clock and only 27 seconds left in the game. Smith fouled Mike Wilkinson going for the rebound, and Wilkinson's two free throws put the Badgers within one with 25.6 seconds left.

Jamar Smith made one of two free throws to make the score 61-59, but Wilkinson knocked down a three despite Smith flying out at him to put Wisconsin ahead 62-61 with 12.5 seconds remaining. After a timeout, Gilchrist missed but Caner-Medley was fouled on his follow shot. He missed the first free throw, but tied the game with his second. Maryland Coach Gary Williams said after the game about the second free throw, “I didn't look. I just waited for the crowd to tell me if he made it.”

The Badgers inbounded with only 2.4 second left, and D. J. Strawberry almost went down in Terrapin history when he stole the pass and lauched a three-point shot at the buzzer from past midcourt that went just off the front rim.

Wisconsin moved out to a 65-63 lead in overtime, but Maryland then took control with a nine-point run. Gilchrist got it rolling by making a floater from the lane. Smith then backed Wilkinson down and scored on a layup, Strawberry made one of two free throws after rebounding a Badger miss, and Smith converted two free throws rebounding Strawberry's miss. Strawberry then iced the game with a steal and layup to give Maryland an insurmountable 72-65 lead with 19 seconds remaining in overtime.

The Terps won the critical battle of turnovers, forcing a season high 14 from Wisconsin while committing a season low 11. Maryland made eight more baskets than the Badgers, but Wisconsin's 10-23 three-point shooting kept the game close.

Jamar Smith had the most impressive game of his career, scoring a career-high 25 points on 10-18 shooting and pulling down 12 rebounds in 40 minutes of action. He thinks the best is yet to come, "I'd say this is the best game I've played at Maryland so far, but there is more to come. It's hard for big guys to defend me because of my quickness. It is a lot of trouble for our opponents."

John Gilchrist approached his first triple-double, scoring 12 points, dishing out a career-best 9 assists, and grabbing 7 rebounds. Chris McCray also had his best scoring night as a Terp, adding 16 points. Caner-Medley, quiet offensively, contributed a career-best 4 blocked shots. D. J. Strawberry, although schooled at times by Devin Harris, still came up with 4 steals.

Coach Williams, while far from satisfied with his team's execution on offense, was pleased with something more important; their heart. “ My guys' competitiveness in wanting to win that game really showed me something because this was our fist game where it was really on the line. They made a great run at us and took the lead and we had to really suck it up to win the thing. I think we really showed some things tonight.”

Williams also singled out Smith and Gilchrist for praise, "I was really proud of Jamar Smith, our only senior. He really stepped it up when we needed it. I thought John Gilchrist in the second half, really got us into the offense. As a point guard, that's the most important thing that we do. We've had it for the last three or four years; we need it this year, and John really did it for us against a very good guard tonight."

Gilchrist saw this victory as a true group effort, “ I want to say thank you to all my teammates and everybody that helped contribute to this win, even the people who didn't play. Just by practicing hard, we were...really prepared tonight."

Maryland was indeed prepared to dig deep tonight, and they demonstrated that their balanced team effort could beat an impressive one-man show. The education of this young Terrapin squad continues with another important lesson learned and a difficult test passed.

Notes From Under the Shell
Tonight was Maryland's first overtime game in the Comcast Center.

Maryland is now 3-2 in all-time ACC-Big 10 Challenge games. Oddly, this was their third overtime game in the series, having previously lost to Wisconsin in 2000 and Indiana in 2002.
This was only Wisconsin's second visit to College Park, their only previous trip resulting in a 22-13 win on December 22, 1932. No, I wasn't there that night either. I had a company Christmas party to attend.

Wisconsin made 10-24 three-point shots tonight (43.5%) after converting only 17% through their first three games.

Tonight was the first appearance of D. J. Strawberry's father, the famous (or infamous) former major league baseball player Darryl Strawberry. Am I just being cynical, or is it a coincidence that he showed up for D. J.'s first nationally televised college game. Of course, the cameras found the elder Strawberry several times throughout the evening.

Maryland's next game is in the first round of the BB&T Classic at the MCI Center in Washington DC vs. Gonzaga at 3:30 PM on Saturday. The Raycom network will televise the game locally. Check your local listings for the channel carrying the broadcast.


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