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Shirts and Skins

Know How

By Eddie Matz | Posted 1/22/2003

Maryland over Duke? Not a chance in hell.

That's what I was thinking at 1:29 p.m. last Saturday afternoon. Of course, I was also convinced that the Eagles would slaughter Tampa Bay, and that "Adam Sandler" and "Golden Globe nominee" would never be used in the same sentence. (Side note: While I give the Bucs all the credit in the world for their 27-10 pasting of Philly, I give Sandler absolutely no credit for his putrid performance in Punch-Drunk Love.)

Ah well, what do I know? Apparently, more than coach Gary Williams, who, immediately after his Terps' convincing 87-72 victory over the Blue Devils, was asked by CBS's Michele Tafoya how his team pulled off the stunning upset. His response? I may be muffing a word or two here, but as best I can remember (I never was a good note taker), he said, "I wish I knew."

Classic Gary Williams. When the Terps lose, he seems to have no idea why. When the Terps win, he seems to have no idea why. So with all due respect, coach, allow me to help. Here are 10 good reasons you looked like a genius Saturday:

1) Rebounding. Maryland was way better at it for 40 minutes, to the tune of a 43-32 advantage on the boards. Especially Ryan Randle, who looked like a man among boys. OK, so maybe boxing out Nick Horvath and Casey Sanders isn't exactly rocket science. Nonetheless, the 6'9", 245-pound senior cleaned the glass more thoroughly (17 rips) than Rosie the Waitress armed with a fresh roll of the Quicker Picker Upper.

2) Clutch shooting. The Terps put the ball in the basket when they needed to, getting timely threes from Nick Caner-Medley, Steve Blake, and, especially, Drew Nicholas (24 points), who downed more big shots than Ben Affleck at a Cinco de Mayo party.

3) John Gilchrist. It was Maryland's backup point guard who combined with fellow newcomer Jamar Smith to score 12 points in a 14-3 Maryland run that effectively ended the game, putting the Terps up 67-56 midway through the second half.

When I checked Gilchrist's line after the game, I couldn't believe what I saw: 10 minutes, six points. Here I was, worried that the Terps would take a nosedive next year without Blake. But in 10 short minutes, a 6'1" freshman proved that the Maryland hoops program is in safe hands. As far as I'm concerned, it was the most spectacularly contagious 10-minute, six-point performance in the history of basketball. Or at least in the history of this column.

4) The hug. With two seconds left, Chris McCray handed the ball to Blake just in front of half-court. Then, as time expired, the two players hugged.

"Awww, that was so cute," whispered Mrs. Shirts & Skins as she leaned over to me from her customary wingwoman position on the couch. Now don't misunderstand my wife. She's become quite the knowledgeable sports fan in the five years I've known her (never underestimate the power of consistent, Pavlovian in-game foot rubbing). So it's no surprise that her final-buzzer commentary was spot on.

After all, it was pretty freakin' cute: The freshman forking over the pill to the senior leader at the end of a huge 87-72 upset over top-ranked Duke. As if to say, "Thanks, dude. I know you only scored eight points, but we couldn't have done it without you." Truth is, though, on this particular Saturday at the Comcast Center, the seniors couldn't have done it without the new guys either. Call it chemistry.

5) The rejection. After Nicholas missed a breakaway dunk, McCray busted his hump to get back on D and block a Duke shot from the perimeter. Oh, by the way, there was only 1:36 left in the game and the Terps were up 15. Call it hustle.

6) J.J. Redick. Duke's sharpshooter fouled out with 5:14 left in the game. Not that it mattered. After all, the heralded freshman was pretty much invisible after intermission. By the way, what's with those spots on his shoulders? Freckles? Moles? Birthmarks? Acne? I'm not casting judgment. I just want to know--that's all.

7) Nick Horvath. Say this for the Blue Devils forward--the guy knows how to foul. That's all he's been doing his entire Duke career, which has seemingly lasted 17 years now, despite the fact that he's currently listed as a junior. Honestly--I think I remember Horvath taking a charge from Herman Veal back in the mid-'80s.

8) Casey Sanders. College basketball is the world's most entertaining spectator sport. And nothing in college basketball is more entertaining than watching the spastic motions Sanders makes whenever his Duke teammates accidentally throw him the ball. I assume it's accidental because, Lord knows, if he were my teammate, No. 20 would never see the rock.

9) Free throws. Maryland hit 'em (29-31). Duke didn't (9-20).

10) The sixth man. The boisterous sea of red surrounding the Comcast Center floor did its job (see No. 9). Especially the folks in the "end zone," as Brent Musburger calls it. Will somebody please tell Musburger that in basketball we call it a baseline--not an end zone.

So there you have it. Hopefully, Coach Williams will figure out how to re-create the magic next month in Durham.

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