- The Washington Times - Monday, December 29, 2003

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Did too much holiday celebrating cost Maryland its ACC opener?

Florida State outlasted No.24 Maryland 79-75 last night before a rabid 8,074 at Leon County Civic Center, but the Terrapins loss may have been created several days earlier.

Several Terps said poor practices over recent exam and holiday breaks left them unprepared for the Seminoles’ opening 18-4 run. While Maryland (7-3, 0-1 ACC) rallied to lead briefly in the second half, Florida State (11-1, 1-0) sealed the victory with a late 16-2 streak.

“A lot of people don’t understand the intensity it’s going to take to play at this level,” guard John Gilchrist said. “It’s nothing but a reality check.”

Said guard Chris McCray: “We got away with [poor workouts] a couple times, but we can’t keep doing it. We didn’t have any good practices last week after exams. Everybody was joking around and we paid for it. We can’t let teams get up on us like that.”

Florida State rebounded from its first loss after a 10-0 start to show Leon County Civic Center is no longer a safe haven for ACC opponents desperate for a road victory. Four seniors helped the Seminoles recover from two Maryland comebacks even though Florida State shot only 40 percent.

Rallying from the huge early deficit cost Maryland some energy down the stretch. When Florida State steamed ahead 57-56 with 8:49 left, the Terps simply couldn’t stop the Seminoles and were soon down 67-58.

“When you get down 18-4, you’re going to lose your rotation and substitutions,” coach Gary Williams said. “We got the lead, but it takes something out of you. Second half, I thought we had control of the game for a while and then we didn’t. … We were pretty fortunate to be there in the end the way that thing started.”

Maryland hurt itself with shoddy play. The Terps’ season-high 24 turnovers led to 29 Seminoles points. Maryland shot a surprising 20 3-pointers, but made only seven. The Terps bench also was outscored 35-13. Forward Nik Caner-Medley fouled out and three others had at least three fouls.

It was 40 minutes of fast-paced play with a few defensive stretches. Both teams steadily charged the basket against man defenses. Caner-Medley, Gilchrist and McCray each scored 15 points while center Jamar Smith added eight points and 11 rebounds. Forward Alexander Johnson led the Seminoles with 14 points.

Maryland countered Florida State’s hot start with a 14-2 streak. The Terps finally caught Florida State at 30-30 with 5:22 left in the first half on forward Ekene Ibekwe’s layup.

Maryland grabbed its first lead at 32-31 on Gilchrist’s layup with 4:10 remaining and dunks by Smith and McCray gave the Terps a 36-34 edge with 2:41 left. Maryland then went silent as Florida State escaped with a 37-36 halftime lead.

The Terps had a 56-51 lead with 10:21 remaining after six different players scored over a four-minute spurt. However, foul problems disrupted Maryland’s flow. Forward Travis Garrison received his fourth with 11:54 left while McCray and Smith were on the bench with three.

Florida State regained momentum after scoring twice underneath to close within 56-55 with 9:18 left, prompting Williams to call a timeout. It didn’t help as the Seminoles followed with Johnson’s dunk and guard Nate Johnson’s 3-pointer for a 60-56 lead with 8:23 to cap the 9-0 run before Williams called another timeout.

The Seminoles expanded their lead to 67-58 with 6:23 remaining before the Terps countered with two straight baskets to close within 67-62 with 4:02 left. Maryland couldn’t get closer than 75-71 with 38.1 seconds left on guard D.J. Strawberry’s 3-pointer.

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