The key play in Saturday's Maryland-Georgia Tech game came in December 2002. That was when guard Will Bynum decided to transfer from Arizona to Georgia Tech. It was Bynum's scoring (a career high 25 points, 5-7 3-point shooting) that was the difference in the Yellow Jackets' 81-71 win over the visiting Terps. A stretch of nearly seven minutes in the second half without a hoop also hurt Maryland's chances.
For the second straight game, Maryland had to come back from an early double-digit deficit. Three-pointers by Bynum, Marvin Lewis, and Jarrett Jack fueled an 11-2 Georgia Tech spurt that gave them a 19-8 lead eight minutes into the game.
Yellow Jacket Coach Paul Hewitt, knowing his center Luke Schenscher needed lots of help guarding the Terps' Jamar Smith, gave it to him. Tech dropped at least one extra man down to guard Smith every time he got the ball. This strategy succeeded in forcing Smith into 2-8 shooting in the first half and made it a struggle for him every time he touched the basketball.
Trailing 28-23, Maryland went on a 10-0 run. Ekene Ibekwe followed a Smith miss, then Gilchrist knocked down a three-pointer. McCray then made two free throws, Nik Caner-Medley made the first of two free throws and Smith scored on a putback of the second one to give the Terps a 33-28 lead.
The game became increasingly chippy and more difficult for the referees to control at the first half progressed. During this Maryland run, Hewitt was hit with a rare technical foul, becoming incensed enough with the officiating that he needed to be gently pushed back by one of his assistants. The crowd showed their disapproval by throwing objects onto the court and drew a warning from the public address announcer.
The half concluded without further incident, and the Terps took a 38-35 lead into the locker room. Afterwards, Maryland Coach Gary Williams said, "I thought we did a good job in the first half."
The Terps quickly extended their lead to seven points at the start of the second half on a jumper by Ibekwe and a drive by Gilchrist.
Three-point shooting kept the Yellow Jackets close early in the second half. The game turned when Bynum made a three to cut the Maryland lead to 47-46. Chris McCray answered with a jumper, but Bynum struck again, knocking down another three-pointer of the half to pull Georgia Tech even at 49-49 with 14:03 to play.
The teams traded the lead for the next few minutes. A three by Mike Jones gave the Terps a 55-53 lead with 9:43 remaining, but Bynum connected from what seemed like Peachtree Street for his fourth three of the half to put the Yellow Jackets back ahead 56-55. This was the fifth lead change within three minutes and would be the final one of the night.
Bynum's shot ignited a 14-0 Georgia Tech run that gave them a 67-55 lead with 6:02 to play in the game. Bynum added six more points in this stretch. After Maryland tightened up their defense and denied him looks beyond the arc, he drove through the Terps for a layup, a floating jumper, and made two free throws to essentially put the game away.
The Jackets led by as many as 15, 72-57 with 4:25 left before Maryland made a last gasp attempt to get back in the game. Gilchrist scored seven straight points and led a 10-2 run that drew his Terps within 74-67 with 2:01 remaining, but Bynum scored again and grabbed the loose ball after Schenscher blocked a Gilchrist shot to extinguish and Maryland hopes of a miracle comeback.
Amazingly, after Jamar Smith outplayed All-American candidate Sean May of North Carolina Wednesday night, he was badly outclassed by Schenscher, a center who May made look like a turnstile on defense last Sunday night. Schenscher made 7-10 shots, scored 15 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and had 3 blocked shots and 2 steals. Smith, on the other hand, did pull down 13 rebounds, but made only 2-12 shots. Smith finished with only 7 points and committed 3 turnovers.
Caner-Medley suffered through his worst game of the season, making only 1-10 shots. The combined 3-22 shooting by Smith and Caner-Medley offset a career-high 27 points from John Gilchrist. A symptom of the Terps' dysfunction on offense was the fact that Gilchrist had only one assist and the team had only nine, barely half their average. He was the only Maryland player to score in double figures.
The Terrapins' 20 offensive rebounds helped offset some of the poor shooting (36% for the game), but was not enough to overcome that and 19 turnovers. Tech's performance was no work of art, as they shot only 41% and committed 17 turnovers, but on this night they were the tough team down the stretch while the Terps wilted.
Coach Williams said, "I guess we were tired, but that's a losers' excuse. It seems like every time we win a big game, it's hard to play the next game. We didn't run our offense. We couldn't stop them on defense; we stopped moving." His only consolation was hoping, "We got something out of this game."
Maryland will find out soon enough. Duke comes to Comcast Center on Wednesday for another ESPN game at 9:00 P.M. In a league as tough as the ACC is this season, there are no easy lessons to be learned.
Notes From Under the Shell
Georgia Tech's 14-2 start is the best in their school's history.
Maryland should have the opportunity to record the program's 10 th victory over a #1-ranked team when Duke visits the Comcast Center Wednesday night. The Blue Devils' convincing win over #3 Wake Forest combined with #1 Connecticut's loss at North Carolina should elevate Duke to the #1 spot in the next polls. The Terps are currently third in all-time wins over #1, one behind UCLA and Carolina, both of whom have posted ten wins over top ranked teams.
Georgia Tech fans serenaded D. J. Strawberry with his father's name every time he entered the game tonight. That's very original. It will be interesting to see how the Cameron Crazies welcome Strawberry in his first to Duke next month.
Maryland is now 3-2 playing ranked opponents and has two more coming (Duke and Wake Forest) in their next three games.
The Terps trail the all-time series with Georgia Tech 32-28. They had won three of the last four meetings and 12 of the last 15 before tonight.
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Photo courtesy: (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)