- The Washington Times - Monday, December 4, 2000

MARYLAND 71, GW 63

Byron Mouton's Mardi Gras party continued at MCI Center yesterday.

Entering this season it was obvious that the enthusiastic Mouton, a Louisiana native and transfer from Tulane, would inject some much-needed spice into the Maryland basketball team.

And yesterday the kid from Cajun Country had a day filled with celebrations including a bow from atop the scorer's table after he made a steal and plenty of chest bumping and towel twirling.

Yesterday the junior swingman made his second consecutive start for 13th-ranked Maryland and keyed several stretches in the Terps' 71-63 win over George Washington in the championship game of the BB&T; Classic before a Maryland-partisan crowd of 16,826.

Mouton scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and was a big part of the defense that limited GW's scoring prodigy and tournament MVP SirValiant Brown to just 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting. Maryland held the Colonials to 32-percent shooting. However

GW (5-2) stayed close and even led briefly in the second half as it made all 21 of its free throw attempts.

"It's never going to be pretty when you play George Washington," Maryland coach Gary Williams said of the game's physical nature. "But that's the way they want to play. You have to be able to adjust to that and be able to handle it. I thought the last six minutes we did a great job running our offense, and played with confidence."

The Terps (3-3) captured their third title in the five-year history of this tournament, avenging last year's loss to the Colonials in the championship game.

Maryland, which routed Michigan by 31 in Saturday's opening round, got particularly strong efforts from reserve point guard Drew Nicholas (10 points) and physical forward Tahj Holden (six rebounds, three blocks), who helped neutralize GW's strong frontcourt.

"It's mean with Tahj down there," said Williams, who sat slumping power forward Terence Morris (nine points in just 23 minutes) for much of the second half. "No doubt about it. We had to be mean today."

The Terps took control after GW's Chris Monroe hit two free throws and gave his team its only lead of the day, 49-47, with 11:39 remaining. Monroe, who came in averaging 23.0 points, was held to four points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Maryland then went on a 12-4 run to build a six-point lead. Juan Dixon (13 points) hit two medium-range jumpers to give the Terps a two-point edge. A difficult layup by Brown tied the game before Mouton's baseline jumper again gave the Terps the advantage. Brown, who had 32 points in a semifinal upset of No. 19 St. John's, tied the game one more time on a short running jumper.

The Terps then scored six straight to pull away. Holden scored on a tip in, Lonny Baxter (13 points) got a slam and Nicholas hit a turnaround jumper to make it 61-55.

Maryland was able to hold on down the stretch after a spinning layup by Brown cut the lead to 64-61. Morris made a layup to widen the margin to six before the Terps made enough free throws to preserve the tournament crown.

"This is a big ol' confidence builder for us," said Mouton, who had heard ribbing over the summer from GW players after they had won last season's tournament. "Especially playing GW and getting bragging rights."

Mouton's boundless energy carried over to his teammates and the Terps played inspired particularly at the defensive end and on the boards, where they had a 45-37 rebounding advantage, including 20 offensive rebounds.

"Our defense had been a key all year in holding teams' shooting percentages below what they are used to shooting," said Williams, whose team held GW 27 points below its season average of 90.8 points. "As long as our defense continues, our offense will get better as we go into the season."

Mouton has one particularly impressive sequence midway in the second half. After hitting a 15-jumper to give Maryland a 61-55 lead, the swingman forced a turnover near midcourt as the ball bounced off a defenders. Mouton found himself diving towards the scorer's table, but instead of running into the table, he jumped on it, hovered for a second and took and impromptu bow.

"Coach was telling me, 'You have to stop falling and hitting the ground,' " said Mouton, known for his reckless style of play. "I didn't want to hit the scorers table, so I just climbed the table instead."

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