Dec. 10, 2003
I've said it several times already this season: There isn't a dominant college-basketball team in America.
There will be a number of different clubs holding down that top slot in the polls -- holding it for a while, then giving it up. We've already seen Connecticut and Kansas fall from No. 1. Wednesday night, it was Florida's turn, as the Gators lost 69-68 in overtime to visiting Maryland.
The Gators didn't look like a No. 1 team, even though they were playing at home.
Gary Williams worked hard and earned his 300th win as Maryland's head coach (overall, he has more than 500 Division I coaching wins). He told his players they had to defend against the 3-pointer, especially after giving up 13 trifectas in each of the losses last weekend.
The Terps did a great job, battling and battling even when it looked like the Gators would come all the way back from a 17-point deficit. Yes, the 3-point shot and Maryland's missed free throws let the Gators back into the game. Momentum swung, as the 3-pointer affords a team that falls behind a chance to rally.
But the Terps really responded in a situation in which most people didn't give them a chance. Here was a young team, on the road in hostile territory -- the Rowdy Reptiles were fired up, baby -- and coming off back-to-back losses to Gonzaga and West Virginia. But Maryland was not fazed by the crowd.
In the end, sophomore forward Nick Caner-Medley made big shot after big shot. He really came alive to become the BMOC (big man on campus) for Maryland, finishing with 22 points and 13 boards. What a great victory, especially considering sophomore guard John Gilchrist fouled out shortly before overtime.
This was such a big win for the Terps. It will give them a boost of confidence. A loss would have been tough to swallow after Maryland competed so hard.
Perhaps Florida didn't want to be No. 1. Last season when coach Billy Donovan's Gators sat atop the polls, the ride didn't last long because Kentucky blew them out by 15 at Rupp Arena. Tonight, there were big gaps and seams in the Florida zone, and Maryland took advantage early to build a big lead.
The Gators didn't look like a No. 1 team, even though they were playing at home before the passionate Rowdy Reptile fans. But the Gators did come to life with a second-half run that led to overtime.
You're not going to see Florida junior forward David Lee go 1-for-12 from the floor often. Sophomore forward Matt Walsh really struggled, as well.
It's incredible to see how wide open the college-basketball landscape is. Already 15 teams that were ranked in the ESPN/USA Today preseason coaches poll have lost. Texas and Florida, two outstanding teams, lost on consecutive nights.
Donovan won't have much time to regroup. His Gators travel to Louisville to take on Donovan's mentor, Rick Pitino, on Saturday afternoon.
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