The key sequence of the game came with the Terps (13-7, 4-5) clinging to a 66-62 lead. Following a Seminole timeout with 1:16 remaining in the game, Florida State (16-7, 4-5) looked for Pickett to hit the key shot that would put pressure on Maryland. McCray practically crawled inside Pickett's jersey, however, forcing him to give the ball up. As a result, Adam Waleskowski had to throw up a wild shot just before the shot clock went off. Travis Garrison grabbed his tenth rebound of the game, and McCray and John Gilchrist closed out the win by converting seven of eight free throws.
Surprisingly for two of the better defensive teams in the ACC, both teams got off to a fast start offensively. Pickett and Nik Caner-Medley traded hoops and three-pointers to forge an early 5-5 tie, but a 7-0 run gave the Seminoles a 14-9 lead only 4:13 into the game.
At that point, D. J. Strawberry entered the game and, as he had done frequently earlier in the season, provided the spark that got the Terps right back in the game. A driving layup, a follow of a Garrison miss plus a free throw, and two free throws after following a McCray miss brought the Terps back within 19-17 and had the student section up and chanting "DJ, DJ!"
Later in the first half, a 10-0 Maryland run put them ahead 32-24. Three-pointers by Gilchrist and Mike Jones game the Terps the lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
Maryland went into the locker room ahead 39-38 despite the valiant efforts of Florida State's Pickett, who made all four of his three-pointers in the half. His 7-9 shooting and 18 points kept the Seminoles poised to make a move if he could get some help in the second half. Thanks to an outstanding defensive effort by the Terps, none was forthcoming.
The first few minutes of the second half was all about defense. Maryland outscored the Seminoles 8-7 in the first 9:58 after halftime, a radical departure from how the game had started. Three free throws by Florida State's Von Wafer cut the margin to only 45-44, but the Terps then embarked on a decisive 12-3 run to lead 57-47 with 7:34 remaining in the game.
The Seminoles crept back within striking distance by picking up their defensive effort. Florida State began having success playing the passing lanes and deflecting or stealing Terrapin entry passes. This difficulty getting the ball inside slowed Maryland's half court offense down and gave the Seminoles a chance to pull the game out.
It's difficult to play catch-up when your team shoots 22.2% (6-27) in a half, and that is the task that Florida State unsuccessfully took on. Pickett, fighting the Terps defense, foul trouble, and a late hip injury sustained when he crashed into the Maryland bench chasing a loose ball, went 0-6 in the second half. The Seminoles second leading scorer for the game with 15 points, Von Wafer, managed only 1-7 shooting after the break.
Maryland made up for 40% shooting by committing only 11 turnovers and holding Florida State to 32.8% for the game. The Terps also grabbed 17 offensive rebounds and held a 48-41 edge overall. Maryland took 23 three-pointers (making only 6), too many for this team to attempt if their offense is to run efficiently. Fortunately the defensive effort made that unnecessary.
Jamar Smith broke out of a slump with 16 points and 14 rebounds, both team highs. Coach Williams said, "Jamar Smith really stepped it up as the game went on. When he's active, it really helps his rebounding and scoring."
Caner-Medley, who hit a couple of big threes in the second half, added 14 points and 4 blocked shots. D. J. Strawberry, who led Terrapin scorers in the first half with 10 points, finished with 12. Garrison pulled down 10 rebounds for the second straight game.
John Gilchrist, after his dominating performance Wednesday, was held to 11 points, but Coach Williams still thought he played well. "I thought John played great. We were able to get the ball to the open people," Williams said "and John had a lot to do with that." Williams, who expected Florida State to give Gilchrist extra attention defensively after his big game at Virginia, was pleased at his team's balanced scoring. "If you're a team, you have to have people step up and we did today."
The Terrapins, after back-to-back wins, are looking like a team these days; one that will still have to be reckoned with as the ACC season moves into its second half.
Notes From Under the Shell
Maryland has won 16 of their last 18 meetings with Florida State, including 10 of the last 11 in College Park.
Jamar Smith tied his career high with 14 rebounds and posted his ninth double-double of the season. He is tied for the ACC lead in that category with North Carolina's Sean May.
As the Terps was wrapping up the victory at the free throw line, the Maryland student section taunted their vanquished opponents with the tomahawk chop and chant usually heard at games in Tallahassee. Okay, students, THAT was clever.
If you think Florida State's success this season is a fluke, think again. True, they lose seniors Tim Pickett, Michael Joiner, and Nate Johnson after this season, but they have already signed two top-30 recruits for next season; guards Jason Rich and Isaiah Swann. Coach Leonard Hamilton is quickly laying the foundation for a very solid program.
Florida State has recorded three big ACC wins this season over Maryland, Wake Forest, and their miraculous comeback over North Carolina. All of those have come at home, however. They are now 0-4 on the road and already have losses at the two worst teams in the conference, Clemson and Virginia. The Seminoles have not won an ACC game on the road since defeating Clemson on March 3, 2001.
Maryland avoided their first three-game losing streak at Comcast Center with their win today. The Terps had not even lost back-to-back home games since the 1992-93 season. Maryland is now 24-4 at home since moving into the Comcast Center last season.
Incoming Ravens' owner Steve Bisciotti brought one of his employees to today's game, head coach Brian Billick. As Bisciotti told me with a wide grin, it was "a very expensive employee." I wonder if Billick was named employee of the month and the award was a Terps courtside ticket. He probably already has his own parking spot at the office. Also dropping by was Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser. He actually stayed for the game this time despite being without his other half, Michael Wilbon.
Terrapin assistant coach Dave Dickerson was recently named the best-dressed assistant coach in the nation by collegehoopsinsider.com. I don't know how much that means, but it can't be a bad thing. The man does look good!
Maryland has a week off until it's next game on Sunday, February 15 at North Carolina when they take on the Tar Heels at 3:30 PM. The game will be televised nationally on ABC.
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Photo courtesy: (AP Photo/Nick Wass)