- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2001

MARYLAND 91, DUKE 80

DURHAM, N.C. The nightmare has been replaced by a sweet dream.

After seemingly having their season derailed by Duke a month ago when it blew a 10-point lead with 54 seconds left in regulation, Maryland is starting to look like a team capable of reaching its first Final Four after it shocked the second-ranked Blue Devils 91-80 last night on Senior Night at Cameron Indoor Stadium before 9,314.

Unlike last month in College Park, the 16th-ranked Terps kept their composure this time. They made free throws and plays down the stretch. Juan Dixon led the way with 28 points and point guard Steve Blake added 11 points and 11 assists and did terrific job limiting Duke's point guard sensation Jason Williams.

"We owed them," said Maryland small forward Byron Mouton, who was chest bumping everyone in sight when the buzzer sounded. "Duke took our life last time. This was magical."

Duke's Shane Battier, a favorite for national player of the year, walked off his home court for the final time with tears in his eyes. The senior had delivered 31 points, but couldn't save his team in the end. Maryland's Tahj Holden held his fist in the air, and the Terps lingered in the middle of Coach K Court for several moments celebrating their victory.

"It was magnificent," said Maryland center Lonny Baxter, who totaled 15 points and 10 rebounds. "We played with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart. We turned [the season] around."

It's hard to believe this is the same team that had a meltdown in that devastating loss a month ago, and followed it up with three weeks of pathetic basketball. The Terps (19-9, 9-6 ACC) lost five of six starting with the Duke debacle, but have since won four straight and won in Cameron for the second straight year.

Maryland's new maturity showed when Duke (25-4, 12-3) began to rally.

Williams sliced through the defense for a layup to cut Maryland's lead to 80-75 with 1:24 remaining, and visions of the super point guard leading Duke to another miracle comeback were starting to arise.

But Maryland immediately answered out of its spread offense. Mouton felt a trap near halfcourt, and spotted Blake wide open near the basket. Mouton threw a 40-foot pass and Blake went in for a layup. Battier was called for goaltending on the play and the Terps were again up by seven.

"That was a great pass," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Byron doesn't get enough credit for his passes. It was a great look."

And this time it was Duke that blinked down stretch. Williams missed two free throws on the next possession, teammate Nate James got the rebound, but Dixon slapped the ball away. The Terps made seven of eight free throws in the final minute, and 11 of their last 12.

After Terence Morris (13 points, 12 rebounds) made one of two foul shots, a layup by Duke's Chris Duhon cut Maryland's lead to 85-80 with 29 seconds left. However, the Terps made their last six free throws as Holden, Dixon and Mouton each made a pair for the final points.

"It's like a disease," said Mouton, after Maryland found a cure for its late-free throw shooting difficulties. "When one guy hits his free throws, we all hit our free throws. Last time we were all missing them."

The Terps won thanks to a 27-11 stretch to close the game, as the Blue Devils shot a woeful 24 percent in the second half and made just 3 of 19 from behind the 3-point line. It followed a torrid first half when they made 7 of 14 3-pointers and led 50-43 at the break.

Duke held a 69-64 edge with 8:51 left before the Terps rallied with an 8-0 run capped when Blake fed a cutting Dixon for a short runner in the lane to make. After a Battier two-point field goal, the Terps scored six more unanswered points.

Danny Miller, who provided a boost off the bench, scored the Terps next basket in wild fashion. After Baxter missed a free throw, Miller batted the ball to keep it up to keep it alive. Miraculously, the ball went in. Miller added a backdoor layup off a Dixon feed and a short spinning jumper by Baxter made it 78-71 with 2:51 left.

Meanwhile, the Devils were in the midst of a drought in which they scored on just one of 13 possessions as the Terps mixed zone with their man-to-man defense.

"It seemed like every time we would drive, they would get a hand in or block our shots," said Duke guard Mike Dunleavy, whose team scored two points over a 6:44 span. "They gave us some open threes and we couldn't knock them down."

The Terps dominated inside all night and had a 46-26 advantage on points in the paint. That was particularly exploited in the second half after Duke center Carlos Boozer (16 points in 23 minutes) left with an injury and Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski speculated it might be a broken foot.

It was that kind of night for Duke as Maryland couldn't be stopped.

After the game, Dixon acknowledged he thought of the final few horrific moments when the Terps fell to Duke in Cole Field House. The sharpshooter had heard all the criticism about how this team had lacked heart and underachieved. It was the second time in two seasons the Terps pulled a stunner in Cameron, but considering everything, this one was even more unbelievable.

"We are going to appreciate this one more than last year because of all we've been through," Dixon said. "This says a lot about out team. It was a big-time win."

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