- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2003

Maryland coach Gary Williams wouldn’t mind enjoying a quiet holiday season for awhile. After playing three overtime thrillers in eight days, the Terrapins meet Pepperdine today before breaking for finals.

Pepperdine (3-4) is a sleeper, though, after recovering from a dreadful start to win two straight. If Maryland comes in unprepared, the Terps could enter exams week with an ‘L’.

“We’ll see,” said forward Travis Garrison. “We can’t keep celebrating our win over Florida — we have to keep going. There will be a lot more tougher games coming up, especially when we get into the ACC season. We just have to be the tougher team.”

Said guard John Gilchrist: “It’s easy to get up for big games, but you have to get these wins. You can’t give away wins like we did to West Virginia.”

Maryland (5-2) should re-enter the polls this week after its 69-68 overtime upset of No.1 Florida on Wednesday. The Terps also beat No.15 Wisconsin 73-67 in overtime Dec.2 before falling to No.17 Gonzaga 82-68 and to West Virginia 78-77 in overtime. After ending last season with four of six games going down to the final shot, Maryland is accustomed to dramatic finishes.

“It’s been the wildest streak I’ve ever been in, in terms of close games,” Williams said. “I’ll take it any way we can get it as long as we win.”

Though Maryland is still trying to settle on a nine-man rotation, the Terps have found a backup point guard in D.J. Strawberry. Then again, the freshman is also a shooting guard and small forward while providing a strong defensive presence. Strawberry’s 4.9 points a game don’t begin to illustrate his worth, because most of his contributions come away from the ball.

Andre Collins left the team Tuesday after deciding he would never play regularly, making Strawberry the emergency backup. He was forced to play the entire overtime at Florida after Gilchrist fouled out with 11.8 seconds left in regulation. Strawberry ran the offense effectively, made a free throw and took a key charge in overtime.

Strawberry practiced minimally for two weeks at point guard and didn’t know his new role until the game.

“Sometimes you don’t want a player to think too much,” Williams said. “D.J. has a pretty good inner strength. He kept it simple. He just got the ball to the right people. That’s all we needed to win the game. … John’s not going to be able to play 40 minutes per game, and you have to still run the offense with him out of there. Players have to understand: get it done without your starting point guard.”

Strawberry ignored the Florida crowd’s crude comments about his father Darryl’s drug problems that seemed to bother other Terps more. Strawberry and his teammates better expect such comments along Tobacco Road when the ACC season starts.

“I don’t hear that much of it,” Strawberry said. “You hear a little bit, but you focus on the game. You can’t focus on that. You have too much on your mind basketball-wise.”

Gilchrist delivered his best game with 18 points, many off dazzling drives helping to break a 2-3 zone that had frustrated the Terps in earlier games. Maryland is learning how to work inside because its outside shooting is still lacking, though the Terps were a respectable seven of 17 in 3-pointers against Florida.

“You just have to drive the ball to the rim and get fouled,” Gilchrist said. “If the shots aren’t falling, you get an old-fashioned 3-point play or just go to the free throw line and make them calmly. The main thing is stopping them on the defensive end.”

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