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Maryland rallies in overtime to upset top-ranked Florida 69-68

Posted: Wednesday December 10, 2003 10:22PM; Updated: Thursday December 11, 2003 1:52AM

  Billy Donovan, Anthony Roberson
Anthony Roberson sparked the Gators' second-half comeback, but Florida let a late lead slip away in OT.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Coach Gary Williams finally pushed his win total at Maryland from 299 to 300. That wasn't the only number that will need adjusting after Wednesday night's game.

The Terrapins helped Williams reach his milestone with a 69-68 overtime win over No. 1 Florida, handing the Gators the loss in their first game after reaching the top spot in The Associated Press' poll.

Travis Garrison made a jumper with 18 seconds left for the winning points in a brutish, defensive, ugly game -- but one that felt pretty good to Williams nonetheless.

"We haven't been consistent, but somehow we found the toughness to go out there and play tonight," said Williams, who improved to 300-155 in 15 seasons with the Terrapins.

Williams was stuck on 299 after a two-game losing streak that had Maryland (5-2) down in the "receiving votes" category of the latest poll. This win showed how unscientific those polls really are.

Florida, meanwhile, fell to 0-2 in its first game after moving to No. 1. Last season, the Gators (5-1) made it to the top of the poll for the first time in program history, but lost 70-55 to Kentucky in their first game.

This loss all but guaranteed there will be a new top-ranked team for the fourth straight week on Monday; the Gators joined Connecticut and Kansas as the latest to fail to hold onto No. 1.

"The yellow jersey gets passed on to someone else," Florida coach Billy Donovan said.

Over 45 exciting minutes, both these teams showed signs of greatness, and even bigger signs of the youth that pervades both rosters.

Bigger, stronger and shooting as well as they had all season, the Terrapins got big hoops, rebounds and blocks from John Gilchrist (18 points), Jamar Smith (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Nik Caner-Medley (22 points, 13 rebounds) to build a 17-point lead early in the second half.

But they went on an amazing cold streak, failing to score a field goal over the final 9 minutes of regulation. In fact, their only two baskets over the final 16 minutes came on breakaway dunks after steals -- and Florida tied it at 60 to send the game to overtime.

Williams wasn't surprised.

"I told them: `We're not 17 points better than Florida, so we've just got to hang in there,"' Williams said.

In overtime, Anthony Roberson (20 points) hit a 3-pointer and Matt Walsh took an outlet pass from Roberson to help the Gators take a 68-64 lead, but the Terps didn't give up.

Caner-Medley hit a shot standing on the 3-point line to cut the deficit to two. D.J. Strawberry cut the deficit to one with a free throw. Then, after yet another stop in this defensive matchup, the Terps worked the ball to Garrison, who spotted up and hit the game-winner.

"I was really proud of him that he had the guts to take that shot in that situation, which sometimes guys don't want to do," Williams said.

Maryland sealed the win when Smith blocked Adrian Moss' shot with time running out.

Smith got the rebound, was fouled and missed both free throws with 1.1 seconds left. But by then, Florida fans, who were being warned not to storm the floor just moments earlier, were already shuffling off in shock.

Donovan blamed the loss not on the ending, but the beginning of the game.

"To me, we're completely dumb if we don't watch the film of that first half and get better," he said. "We should've been blown out."

They weren't, though, and that may have made the win that much sweeter for the Terps. With Duke and North Carolina routinely on their ACC schedule, they got their ninth victory over a top-ranked program in school history, leaving them one behind UCLA for the all-time lead.

Were the Gators really the best team in the country?

It sure didn't look like it early, when Maryland simply outplayed them in every phase. When Ekene Ibekwe hit a 3-pointer with 16 minutes left in the second half, the Terrapins led 49-32.

Florida played great defense to get back in it, but blew a couple chances to take the lead late. Moss and David Lee each missed two free throws in the final two minutes of regulation with the Gators trailing by one.

That was just part of the general ugliness of this one. Suffering with an injured leg, Lee went 1-for-12 from the field and finished with nine points. Walsh shot 4-for-13. The Gators made only 31 percent of their shots after shooting better than 50 percent the first five games.

Maryland, meanwhile, helped Williams get No. 300 in the most unlikely of venues. The Terps were supposed to be too young to seriously contend this season, although Gilchrist, Garrison and Caner-Medley -- all sophomores -- might be proving that theory wrong.

"If you can win a game like this, in this hostile environment, it's great and you have to take it as a learning experience," Caner-Medley said.

The game marked Florida's first nonconference home loss in 41 games. It was a turnabout from last year, when the Gators won at Maryland to snap its 87-game nonconference home winning streak.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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