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Maryland sitting pretty after ugly win over FSU


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- This is what happens when two teams that like to run play two games in less than 48 hours.

This is what happens when both teams also are coming off road games -- not to mention tough losses -- with their travel plans delayed by bad weather.

You get 46 turnovers, divided evenly between the teams. You get the winning team shooting 36.8 percent from the field and the losing team missing 11 of 26 free throws, including four of six in the final two minutes by the Atlantic Coast Conference's top scorer. You get the two coaches commiserating afterward about the sheer ugliness of it all.

"I don't know how you can measure ugly on the Richter scale, but if you could, this one would have been off the charts," said Florida State coach Pat Kennedy.

Maryland didn't win any style points yesterday at the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center, but the Terrapins wound winning this battle of attrition. After watching a 10-point lead with 15:20 remaining turn into a four-point deficit with 7:05 to go, Maryland rallied behind freshman Keith Booth to beat the Seminoles, 69-66, and sweep the season series.

The victory helped break a confidence-shaking four-game ACC losing streak for Maryland (13-7, 6-5) and could go far toward the school's first NCAA tournament bid in six years. Two free throws by Exree Hipp with five seconds remaining gave the Terps their margin of victory, which was secured when Charlie Ward missed a 21-footer at the buzzer.

"We had to win this game -- nothing else mattered," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose Terps were coming off a (( six-point defeat at top-ranked North Carolina on Thursday night. "It didn't matter if we played well. All that matters was that we won. After a tough game in Chapel Hill, this is a great win."

Maryland won despite four of its starters getting into foul trouble. Most significant among them was freshman center Joe Smith, who picked up his fourth foul with more than 16 minutes left and the Terps about to go ahead 44-34 and fouled out -- after going for a steal against Bob Sura 40 feet from the basket -- with 1:43 remaining and Maryland in front 67-64. Smith finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three blocks in 25 minutes.

Sura, the ACC's leading scorer but only a 64 percent free-throw shooter, missed a pair of free throws. He later made only the first of two with 55.1 seconds left, helping the Terps stay ahead 67-65, and the second of two with six seconds to go to keep Maryland in front by one. He then fouled Hipp for what turned out to be the game-clinching free throws.

"Our free-throw shooting killed us," said Kennedy, whose team had lost by eight at Wake Forest and needed nearly seven hours to get home. "But a lot of things killed us, like turnovers [season-high 23] and three-point shooting [1-for-15]. That was the most frustrating game I've coached in years."

While Florida State might have lost the game at the line -- and perhaps its last chance at turning around the season -- the Terps might have revived themselves here with an uncharacteristically quick start and uncanny free-throw shooting. In a game in which Maryland jumped to leads of 13-2 and 29-17, only to go without a basket for more than seven minutes and help the Seminoles cut the deficit to six by halftime, the Terps hit 25 of 31 free throws. Booth, the former Dunbar star, hit 11 of 14.

It was Booth who brought Maryland back after the Seminoles made a 20-6 run to wake up the crowd of 7,885 and seemingly take control of the game. It was Booth who scored inside to tie the game at 56, then fouled out both of Florida State's big men, Andre Reid and Kirk Luchman, on back-to-back plays, and helped the Terps take a 59-58 lead by making three of four free throws. And it was Booth who fed Duane Simpkins for Maryland's final basket with 1:55 left.

"I thought it was my duty with Joe fouled out, it was my job to grab a lot of rebounds and be aggressive," said Booth, who finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three assists, and played the last 10 minutes after picking up four fouls 10 minutes into the second half. "We won the game on the foul line. As long as we do that, we'll have a great season."

Hipp had missed his only free-throw attempt before nailing that pair in the waning seconds. But the shot the sophomore forward was thinking was a missed dunk with about six minutes to play. It made for some nervous moments as Hipp stepped to the line.

"When the first one went in, I felt more confident about the second," said Hipp, the best free-throw shooter among Maryland's regulars at nearly 74 percent. "Duane came over to me and said, 'It's just like in practice.' But I was thinking about the dunk I missed. I guess the two free throws made up for it."

Still, it came down to the frantic, final five seconds. Williams shouted to Simpkins to foul Ward if he picked up his dribble near midcourt. Simpkins heard his coach's orders, and ignored them. But instead of containing the quick Florida State point guard, he let Ward get by and nearly to the three-point line. Ward, who had made a last-second game-winning drive recently at Georgia Tech,got his shot off cleanly, but it hit the backboard and front rim, then bounced away.

"Coach told me to foul him, but I just had a feeling he was going to miss," said Simpkins, who played 33 minutes despite a bout with stomach flu after the team arrived here Friday night, finishing with 12 points, three assists and seven turnovers. "He [Williams] would have cussed me out if he had made it."

There was no reason for Williams, who earlier had picked up his first technical of the ACC season, to cuss. He knew that his team's victory was far from a thing of beauty. He knew that the Terps might have gotten a little lucky at the end. But he also knew that his young team might have revived itself, just in time for the stretch run.

"Watch us play well from now on," he said.

Ugly or not, here they come.

NOTES: Ward committed a season-high seven turnovers. . . . Maryland sophomore F Mario Lucas made another solid contribution off the bench, finishing with eight points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. . . .The Terps return home for games against Wake Forest and Loyola this week.

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