- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Maryland coach Gary Williams is No.1 at beating top-ranked teams.

Forward Travis Garrison’s 15-footer with 16.4 seconds remaining led Maryland to a 69-68 overtime upset over No.1 Florida last night before 12,275 at the O’Connell Center. The Terrapins rallied from a 68-64 overtime deficit after blowing a 17-point regulation lead.

It was Williams’ sixth career upset of a No.1 team, most among active coaches, and his 300th victory at Maryland. It was also the Terps’ ninth upset of a top-ranked team since 1959, tying North Carolina and second only to UCLA’s 10. It was the third straight year Maryland has beaten a No.1. The Terps defeated Duke twice in College Park.

“We got away with a win,” Williams said. “We haven’t been consistent and somehow we found the toughness to go out there and play tonight. For our players to have that fortitude with [guard] John Gilchrist on the bench throughout the overtime period, I was impressed. We just never quit.”

It was the second straight year Florida (5-1) lost its first game after being ranked No.1. Maryland also repaid Florida for ending the Terps’ 87-game home winning streak against nonconference teams last year by halting the Gators’ similar 40-game home roll.

Forward Nik Caner-Medley led Maryland with 22 points — including six straight in overtime — and 13 rebounds. Gilchrist added 18 points before fouling out in regulation. Center Jamar Smith delivered 14 points and 12 rebounds — his fifth double-double this season. Guard Anthony Roberson’s 20 points led Florida.

Williams promised the Terps (5-2) would play unevenly this season with five freshmen and four sophomores, and sandwiching upsets over then-No.15 Wisconsin and Florida with losses to then-No.17 Gonzaga and West Virginia in eight days showed both the potential and immaturity Maryland offers.

But Maryland showed its tenacity at the end. The Terps responded from a lost weekend at the BB&T; Classic by staring down the Gators. Williams felt the harsh early schedule would toughen the young team for the coming ACC grind, but it already prepared them for a top opponent on the road.

“It’s been every emotion you can think,” Williams said of the past week.

Said Gilchrist: “It really builds character to knock off the No.1 team.”

Maryland’s offense disappeared early in the second half and Florida steadily rallied to force Maryland to play its third overtime game in eight days.

Florida led 68-64 when Caner-Medley had a 15-footer and guard D.J. Strawberry added a free throw to bring the Terps to 68-67 with 53.3 seconds left. Garrison then stunned the crowd with a short jumper after missing his five earlier shots.

“Travis is the warrior of our team,” Gilchrist said. “Mr. Cool. We had full confidence when he took that shot.”

Maryland led 39-27 at halftime after overwhelming the hosts on both ends. Florida seemed little prepared for the ACC foe after fattening on small schools early in the season.

The Terps opened the second half with a 10-5 streak with Caner-Medley hitting two 3-pointers for a 49-32 lead with 16:25 remaining.

Florida responded with a more physical style that slowed the scoring as officials started calling fouls calm down the play. The teams combined for seven points in eight minutes. Maryland managed four points off steals in seven minutes, but still led 55-44 with 8:11 after resting its starters for a final run.

Florida tied it at 57 with 2:26 remaining before Smith’s free throw gave Maryland a brief 58-57 edge. Florida then missed four straight free throws while Gilchrist made two for a 60-57 lead with 1:05 left.

Christian Drejer’s two free throws closed it to 60-59 with 53.2 seconds remaining. Florida’s Matt Walsh committed an offensive foul to nullify a layup with 23.7 seconds remaining. However, Terps forward Mike Grinnon was called for traveling six seconds later to give Florida a final chance. Instead, Drejer forced overtime when he made one of two free throws with 11.8 seconds remaining.

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