Monday, December 29, 2003

Terps Ambushed at Florida State

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

If a college basketball team wants to win on the road, it needs to make their foul shots and avoid turnovers. The Maryland Terrapins did none of the above Sunday night and lost at Florida State 79-75 in the ACC opener for both teams.

The game could hardly have begun in a worse manner for the Terps, who fell behind 16-4 before the first media time out. Maryland turned the ball over on their first three possessions (13 in the first half). Michael Joiner paced the Seminoles, who added another hoop after the timeout, with seven points and Mike Matthews added another six points during that opening run. Both seniors had exceeded their season scoring average (Joiner 5.2, Matthews 2.7) in the first five minutes of the game.

The game quickly turned around, however, when the Terps went on a 14-2 burst to draw within 20-18. Chris McCray, who scored 13 points in the first half, made 4-4 free throws, John Gilchrist and Nik Caner Medley knocked down three-pointers, Ekene Ibekwe threw down a dunk after rebounding a Jamar Smith miss, and D. J. Strawberry came up with a steal that led to a breakaway layup.

Much of the balance of the first half was played at a frantic pace, with turnovers and missed shots leading to lots of end-to-end action. Florida State nudged their lead out to five points, and the Terps briefly led by two, but it was the Seminoles that took a 37-36 lead into the locker room at the break.

Not only did McCray lead all scorers at halftime, he was also the defensive star. McCray held the Seminoles' leading scorer, Tim Pickett (14.4 points per game) scoreless in the first half. Pickett needed only 14 seconds of the second half to change that, knocking down his first shot after halftime. Travis Garrison quickly answered with a three-pointer to tie the game at 39-39.
The game went back and forth well into the second half, but the first sign of trouble came for Maryland when McCray headed to the bench with his third foul only five minutes in. Smith quickly joined him with his third foul, and then Garrison picked up his fourth moments later. Despite foul problems, the Terps led 56-51 following a Caner-Medley layup with 10:20 remaining in the game.

For Maryland fans who taped this game, that would be the point to stop the VCR and eject the tape. Florida State embarked on a 16-4 run to take control of the contest. The Seminoles', who came into this game having held opponents to 35.6% shooting for the season, clamped down defensively.

Backup center Alexander Johnson got Florida State started with a layup, then Von Wafer followed a Tim Pickett miss, and Johnson scored again with a dunk. The ‘Noles upped their lead to 60-56 when Nate Johnson (no relation to Alexander) knocked down a three-pointer following the Terps' third consecutive turnover. A pair of free throws by both Alexander Johnson and Anthony Richardson sandwiched around a three-pointer by Wafer built Florida State's lead to 67-58 with 6:22 remaining, and they would never trail again.

Maryland would not go away quietly, though. After Smith missed two free throws with 1:40 left, Caner-Medley grabbed the loose ball and got it to Gilchrist. He managed to draw a three-shot foul on Joiner and made all three free throws to pull the Terps within 73-68 17 seconds later.

Strawberry gave the Terps one last gasp by making a three-pointer with 38.1 seconds remaining to pull Maryland back within 75-71. Pickett made two free throws for Florida State but Caner-Medley scored on a putback after a Gilchrist missed three. He was fouled on the play but missed the free throw, and Anthony Richardson's two free throws with 19 seconds left iced it for the Seminoles.

Maryland played well on defense most of the game, holding Florida State to 40% shooting and forcing 18 turnovers. The Seminoles missed a staggering amount of shots from close range, a symptom of their big men's deficiencies on the offensive end.

The Terps had their own problems on offense, committing a season-high 24 turnovers and making only 10-18 free throws. A few more makes at the foul line would have put more pressure on Florida State and set up a very interesting finish.

Jamar Smith led Maryland with 11 rebounds, but had his worst offensive game of the season. He scored only 8 points on 4-12 shooting and committed 4 turnovers. He was also 0-4 from the foul line, dropping his percentage for the season to an astonishing 39.6%. When the player that your entire offense is calibrated to send to the foul line is shooting that poorly, you team has a major problem.

Caner-Medley, McCray, and Gilchrist shared scoring honors for the Terps with 15 points. McCray had only two in the second half. Caner-Medley also contributed ten rebounds. Alexander Johnson came off the bench to lead Florida Sate with 14 points. Pickett added 13 points on 4-14 shooting.

Afterwards, Coach Gary Williams said, “We've just got to get tougher. Florida State played harder than we did today. I was disappointed in some of our veterans. We didn't do a good job today; the coaches didn't do a good job today. But hey, it's only one of sixteen games in the conference.”

That's a good perspective after losing to a good team on the road. This Maryland team showed its resiliency by bouncing back after losing both games at the BB&T Classic to knock off #1 Florida on the road. They will have another important test coming in their next ACC contest, a home game against North Carolina. School may not be in session, but rest assured there will be plenty of teaching going on during the Terps' upcoming practices.

Maryland's next game will be at Comcast Center on Saturday, January 3 vs. Mount St. Mary's. The Mountaineers are in their first season following the retirement of legendary coach Jim Phelan. They are struggling under new coach Milan Brown, posting a record of 2-8 so far. The game will be carried at 2 PM on Channels 20 and 54 locally by the Raycom/Jefferson Pilot network.

Notes from Under the Shell
Maryland had won 15 of the previous 16 meetings with Florida State. The only loss came in the infamous Valentines' Day loss at Cole Field House in 2001. The Terps had won six straight in Tallahassee. Their last defeat there a 74-70 loss in January 1997.

Maryland had won 30 of their last 36 ACC games dating back to that home loss to the Seminoles
in 2001.

The Terps had won their last three ACC openers, two of them on the road.


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