- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

Point guard Steve Blake considers it a source of pride for him and his teammates and certainly doesn't want it to end while he's playing.
Coach Gary Williams doesn't know its exact length but is eager to continue it in a new building.
Freshmen like Nik Caner-Medley might not know much about it, which is understandable considering it started when they were in kindergarten.
Maryland's nonconference homecourt winning streak, the longest in the nation at 87 games, will get its toughest test of the season today when No.14 Florida comes to Comcast Center. Williams and his players will put the streak, which began Dec.30,1989, in the back of their minds, where it usually resides until another foe has been vanquished.
Indeed, the No.18 Terrapins have more important concerns. For the third time this season, they'll get a shot at a high-caliber team. The first two resulted in losses to No.7 Indiana and now-No.10 Notre Dame. So today's nationally televised game provides a chance for redemption and an opportunity to show that the Terps (4-2) still belong among the nation's top programs.
"This is an important game in all aspects," said Caner-Medley, who will make his third start today. "Any way you look at it, it's a big game for us. There's no getting around that."
Last weekend started shockingly as then-unranked Notre Dame, with former Terrapin Dan Miller, beat Maryland soundly in the first round of the BB&T; Classic. The next day, Maryland fell behind George Washington by 12 before rallying to win. The Terps emerged from the BB&T; Classic with several things they wanted to work on, and Williams made sure they were covered this week in practice.
Williams' main points of emphasis this week have been more patience and better execution on offense and sounder defense. Williams said that in the Notre Dame loss, Maryland had just 10 assists on 26 field goals, while against GW, the Terps had 24 assists on 33 baskets.
The low assist total against Notre Dame resulted partly from impatience. The Terps didn't pound the ball inside as much as Williams wants, meaning too many jump shots were taken off individual moves not within the offense.
The streak doesn't get the recognition that other great college basketball runs, like UCLA's 88-game undefeated run in the early '70s, have gotten. And that's understandable because an overwhelming number of games in the Terps' streak have come against the small-conference patsies that all big-time programs feast on every November and December.
But Maryland also has taken on some heavyweights, including No.2 Illinois last season, No.16 Oklahoma in 2000-01 and No.23 Kentucky in 1999-2000. They've beaten them all to keep alive a streak that started in Williams' first year as coach.
"It's nice that it's happened," Williams said, "but it's not something we've ever worked out. We didn't schedule to keep the streak. You could probably win 300 games in a row if you scheduled right. We like to play these games [against ranked teams].
Said Blake: "I've spent three years defending it; I don't plan on losing it in the fourth. We'll go out and play our best and make sure it doesn't happen. You don't want to let anybody down who was around to keep that streak going."
Florida (6-2) is led by senior forward Matt Bonner (14.3 points) and starts a pair of backcourt seniors in Brett Nelson, who has played through a nagging foot injury all season, and Justin Hamilton. Two freshmen, Matt Walsh and reserve Anthony Roberson, are the first- and third-leading scorers.
Florida still goes after teams with a high-pressure defense employed by coach Billy Donovan and has weathered the transfer of Kensington native James White to Cincinnati before the season and an ankle injury to highly touted Danish guard Christian Drejer. The Gators lost to Stanford before upsetting Kansas in the Preseason NIT to open the season. They have played two road games, losing to lowly West Virginia 68-66 and beating Florida State 58-57.
"I know how they play they scramble around and pressure you and get up on you on defense," Blake said. "We've got to be prepared for that, prepared for the hits."
The Terps get a nine-day break after today's game until playing Maryland-Baltimore County on Dec.23, so winning would make the long layoff for semester exams and certainly Williams' practices much easier to get through.

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