- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 3, 2003

So much for Maryland being too young. An overtime victory against a ranked team shows that the Terrapins won’t be easily dismissed from the polls after seven years.

“We’re still here,” guard John Gilchrist said. “You hear the term ‘rebuilding’ all the time, but we never felt that in the locker room. We’re here to stay.”

Maryland defeated No.15 Wisconsin 73-67 Tuesday night before a national TV audience in a game at sold-out Comcast Center that had the feel of a late-season ACC game rather than an early-season nonconference affair. The Terps weathered several runs by the Badgers and overcame a 61-60 deficit with 12.5 seconds remaining in regulation. The victory should return Maryland to the Associated Press Top25 on Monday.

“We shocked a lot of people,” center Jamar Smith said, “but we knew what kind of team we are. We just had to prove it.”

Smith (25 points, 12 rebounds), the only senior, has emerged as Maryland’s leader, but freshmen forwards Ekene Ibekwe and D.J. Strawberry have become quick contributors.

Strawberry scored three points in the final minute after forcing overtime with a last-second steal, and Ibekwe was a defensive standout. With sophomore guards Chris McCray and Gilchrist and sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley combining for 35 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists, the Terps weren’t intimidated in their first major test this season.

“My guys’ competitiveness in wanting to win that game really showed me something because this was our first game where it was really on the line,” coach Gary Williams said. “They made a great run at us and took the lead, and we had to really suck it up to win the thing.”

Now they have to do it again and again in the next week. Maryland (4-0) meets No.17 Gonzaga (3-1) in the BB&T; Classic at MCI Center on Saturday and No.2 Florida (3-0) on Wednesday in Gainesville, Fla. The players were given yesterday off, but there’s little downtime before the ACC season begins Dec.28 at Florida State.

“[Beating Wisconsin is] not the type of thing to [make us] jump for joy,” Caner-Medley said. “It’s a good win against a ranked team. It means we can play with good teams and win.”

Caner-Medley certainly proved his mettle by hitting the game-tying free throw with 2.4 seconds remaining in regulation after missing his first. He conceded feeling “the most pressure I’ve ever felt in my life.

“It’s a little different when it’s pressure on the team winning,” he added. “I’m real relieved. One shot could have had me feeling completely different and changed a lot things. I’m just so grateful it went in. I just wish the first one went in. It would have made things easier.”

Smith delivered his fourth straight double-double this season with dominating stretches underneath. He put Maryland ahead 67-65 with 55.5 seconds left in overtime and soon followed with a rebound and two more free throws to seal the victory.

“[Smith] took over,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “In those last five to eight minutes and in overtime, Smith was the guy. It was his play that made the difference in the game.”

Gilchrist also is steadily improving as departed point guard Steve Blake’s successor. The sophomore has regained his fluid style after a slow start and is penetrating the lanes. Gilchrist scored 12 points with seven rebounds and nine assists against Wisconsin, tying it at 65-65 with a layup.

“I thought John Gilchrist in the second half really got us into the offense,” Williams said. “As a point guard, that’s the most important thing that we do. We’ve had it for the last three or four years. We need it this year, and John really did it for us.”

McCray’s career-high 15 points included a dazzling 3-pointer for a 57-50 lead with 3:04 left. A seldom-used reserve late last season, McCray returned from playing overseas during the summer with more confidence, improved defense and a solid outside shot.

“It was just in the flow of the game,” McCray said of the 3-pointer. “I saw [the defender] was out there backing up, so when John had the ball I just had ‘shoot’ in my head the whole time, and once I get that kind of confidence, I start knocking down shots.”

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