- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

Maryland is playing guerilla basketball.

The Terps pop up and knock off a ranked team, then they quickly retreat to avoid attention, especially from the pollsters.

Take, for instance, this past week, when the Terps toppled No.9 North Carolina on Wednesday, then followed that with an underwhelming loss at No.12 Georgia Tech on Saturday.

“We’ve had three great [wins] this year — Wisconsin, Florida and North Carolina — and the next time we didn’t play particularly well,” Coach Gary Williams said. “[Even] when you have a veteran team you know it’s not going to get any easier.”

Disappointment over the 81-71 loss to the Yellow Jackets will be short-lived, though. The Terps (10-4, 1-2 ACC) meet rival Duke (14-1, 4-0) on Wednesday at Comcast Center. The Blue Devils are expected to become No.1 when the polls are released today, which could be a boon to the Terps. Duke has arrived in College Park the last two years as the No.1 team, and both times Maryland has beaten the Blue Devils. Maryland also beat No.1 Florida 69-68 on Dec.10, leaving Williams as the leader among active coaches with six victories over top-ranked teams.

“Everybody is ready to knock off a No.1 team — that’s what we do here,” Gilchrist said. “We really get up for the big games. I feel down from the loss, but we have to keep going. You have to get wins to make it to the [NCAA] tournament.

“The Maryland-Duke rivalry, that’s what everybody comes to Maryland to see. It’s basketball at its best.”

But after their biggest wins this season, the Terps haven’t been at theirs. Maryland fell to 1-2 in games following victories against ranked teams when it faltered against Georgia Tech after defeating the Tar Heels 90-84 on Wednesday. With nine underclassmen, consistency often has been the biggest challenge. The adrenaline comes in waves, and the offense sometimes flat-lines against zone or gimmick defenses. Maryland went nearly seven minutes without a field goal during Georgia Tech’s late run.

“It’s a great feeling to be the giant killer,” Gilchrist said, “but we have to be giants ourselves and start playing the role of David [versus Goliath] and take them down every time.”

Williams tempered the Georgia Tech loss with the knowledge Maryland is 3-2 against ranked teams despite a young roster that only will improve in coming seasons. The Terps might finish no higher than the middle of a competitive ACC that could send six teams to the NCAA tournament, but they won’t back down from the heavyweights.

“I’ll take this team where we are right now,” Williams said. “Very few teams have the wins we have against ranked teams.”

Gilchrist scored a career-best 27 points against Georgia Tech. But the offense seldom flowed, relying on defensive spurts for points. Maryland led 55-53 with 9:41 left before Georgia Tech went on a 14-0 run. The Terps took only three shots and had four turnovers during the decisive streak.

Maryland’s frontcourt had perhaps its worst outing this season. Center Jamar Smith (seven points, 13 rebounds) and forward Nik Caner-Medley (five, six) combined for 3-for-22 from the field.

“They got us a lot of wins this year,” Williams said. “They both had bad nights.”

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