- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2004

Florida State’s Tim Pickett came to Maryland yesterday as a leading contender for ACC player of the year and played like a worthy candidate.

For a half.

The Terrapins’ Chris McCray shut down Pickett after halftime, and Maryland made its free throws late to preserve a 73-62 victory before 17,950 at Comcast Center.

Pickett had 18 points in the first half and made all four of his 3-point attempts, draining the long-range jumpers despite extra attention from the Terps. But McCray held Pickett without a field goal in the second half.

“It is definitely frustrating because you do everything and he is just making incredible shots,” McCray said. “I know a couple he faded away, and he was just making them. I just didn’t want to let my team down. He had 18 at halftime. If he kept that up, he would have had 36 in the game, and they probably would have won the game.”

McCray gave the Seminoles senior guard few openings in the second half, and the Terps provided help to wear down Pickett, who made six of his first seven shots but only one of six after that. Pickett, who had 33 points last week in an upset of Georgia Tech, finished with only two second-half points — on free throws — in 14 minutes and was in foul trouble.

“Chris used his speed on Pickett,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who spelled McCray on defense with John Gilchrist and D.J. Strawberry. “He started being a lot closer to Pickett in the second half and just not giving him that look.”

The effort moved the Terps (13-7, 4-5 ACC) a step closer to an 11th consecutive NCAA tournament berth. Maryland won its second straight after losing four of five and is now part of a four-way tie for fourth in the league with Florida State, Wake Forest and North Carolina.

Maryland began the second half of its conference schedule on a high and avenged a loss to the Seminoles in its first ACC contest. The Terps uncharacteristically made important free throws, sinking seven of eight down the stretch to break open a four-point lead with less than a minute remaining.

“It definitely looks a lot better,” said Maryland forward Nik Caner-Medley, who scored 14 points and had four of the Terps’ 11 blocked shots. “It puts us in a nice spot in the league. We are not in the back anymore. We are working towards the front. All that is about is us being consistent.”

Jamar Smith led Maryland with 16 points and 14 rebounds. The Terps had five players in double figures with Strawberry (12), Gilchrist (11) and McCray (10) providing a balanced attack. Forward Travis Garrison grabbed 10 rebounds as Maryland won the battle of the boards 48-41.

The Seminoles (16-7, 4-5) have not won an ACC road game since March 2001. The span of 20 defeats includes four this season.

“We did a poor job matching Maryland’s physicality,” said Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton, the former Washington Wizards coach. “I think it is evident in the fact that they got 22 second-chance points. They did a very good job making us work for everything we got, and in the second half we didn’t get very much. It was a miracle that we were in striking distance late.”

The Seminoles got there when Adam Waleskowski hit a 3-pointer to cut Maryland’s lead to 66-62 with 3:18 left. Neither team scored for almost 2 minutes before McCray hit a pair of free throws to widen the lead. The foul shots came after a wild series of events that began when McCray threw up a bad shot just before the shot clock expired, then came up with the loose ball near midcourt. On the play, Pickett dove into the Maryland bench and did not immediately get up. He bruised his tailbone and never returned to the game.

McCray stole the ball on Florida State’s next possession and drove the length of the court before drawing an intentional foul. He made one of two free throws, and Gilchrist followed by making two foul shots to cement the victory.

McCray also played a big role in getting Pickett in foul trouble. He converted a wild 3-point play on a shot from the right side that bounced off the top of the backboard before dropping in. Pickett picked up his fourth foul on the play, and McCray converted the free throw with 7:34 left for a 57-47 lead, the Terps’ largest until the end of the game.

“I thought it was going to hit the back of the backboard and was going to pop out of bounds,” McCray said. “It went over top of it, and I’m just happy it went in. … That’s when I knew we were going to win.”

Maryland led 39-38 at halftime after a frenetic period. Strawberry had 10 points in the half and provided a needed energy boost off the bench.

“We didn’t shoot well at Virginia,” said Williams, whose team shot 40.3 percent yesterday and had a season-low 11 turnovers. “That’s really what we are about this year. We have to show up defensively. We have to show up rebounding. We did that again today. That is really a good sign for this team because we are starting to get a little more consistency as the season progresses.”

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