- The Washington Times - Monday, January 15, 2001

MARYLAND 76, FLORIDA ST. 55

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Maybe it was a good thing that the Maryland-Florida State basketball game was televised opposite the NFC Championship game. That gave the clicker-happy sports fans at home an opportunity to switch to football.

Those in attendance at the Leon County Civic Center weren't so fortunate. They had to sit and watch a basketball debacle.

The 14th-ranked Terps missed numerous layups and generally shot the ball poorly in the first half, but the Seminoles were far worse from the field.

Nevertheless, Maryland managed to earn an ugly 76-55 win in front of a tiny crowd of 4,602 in what is obviously football country.

The Seminoles missed their first nine shots en route to shooting 31 percent for the game. The Terps didn't fair much better early. Maryland forwards Lonny Baxter and Terence Morris were a combined one of 13 in the first half.

"It was just one of those nights we couldn't put the ball in the hole," said Baxter, who finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds thanks to a strong second half. "We just had to tough it out on defense and rebound."

Even on one of their worst days, the Terps are a cut above the Seminoles (6-11, 0-3 ACC), who frustrated the bigger Terps with a 1-3-1 zone for much of the game.

Shooting guard Juan Dixon carried the offensive load with 19 points. He used his teammates' back screens to flash into the lane and then used his quick turnaround moves.

The Terps' Byron Mouton added 15 points, but it was Maryland's defense, combined with a 17-rebound advantage (54-37) that enabled the Terps to beat the Seminoles for a 10th straight time. Despite a lack of production at the offensive end, Morris (five points on 1-for-12 shooting) grabbed a season-high 14 rebounds.

It's always nice to get a win when you don't play well, but now it's back to reality for Maryland (12-4, 3-1). The Terps will try to reassert themselves as a top 10 team when sixth-ranked Wake Forest visits Cole Field House on Wednesday.

The Terps, who lost to No. 9 North Carolina at home last week, are 0-3 against ranked teams this season, having faded in the second half in those losses and several times in wins. Maryland altered its strategy after intermission yesterday and repeated drills it usually does only before the game.

"We played with a lot more emotion," said Dixon, who made nine of 14 shots and had six rebounds and six turnovers. "We know what we have to correct, and that's being ready to play early in the second half. We did some things differently today. We went out early [before the second half] and did some high knees [drills], and just tried to warm up before the second half. We treated it like a new game."

It appeared to work as the Terps shot 54 percent after the break.

Florida State scored the first four points of the second half to cut Maryland's lead to 36-32, but Maryland answered with a 7-0 run which grew into a 16-4 surge. Baxter started the run with a traditional 3-point play and later a 3-pointer by Drew Nicholas widened the margin to 50-36. A Baxter basket ended the spree and gave Maryland a 52-36 lead with 9:09 to play.

"I was really proud of the way our team came out at halftime," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team scored the game's final nine points to give the illusion of a blowout. "It was a mental thing after a while. Everybody told us we were really flat coming out to start the second half. We had to get though the mental thing today. I think we'll be OK now. That was big for us."

Even though Morris missed his first 10 shots, routinely misfired on short jump hooks and even blew an easy alley-oop, the 6-foot-9 power forward did his part on defense and on the glass.

Can the Terps afford another 5-for-22 shooting night from Baxter and Morris and beat a quality team like Wake Forest?

"No. Definitely not," said Morris, who has had at least 11 rebounds each of the last three games. "I was 1-for-12 from the field today, and pretty much I missed 11 layups. I don't think that's going to happen again."

After both teams opened the game with a series of bricks, Maryland broke a 15-15 tie with a 12-point run to take control. Reserves Chris Wilcox, Danny Miller and Nicholas led the charge while Morris was on the bench. A 3-pointer by Dixon gave the Terps the lead for good and Nicholas added a short turnaround. A 3-pointer by Miller was followed by two fast break scores one by Miller and the other by Wilcox to make it 27-15.

It was enough to sustain Maryland in a game with no flow and lots of errant shots.

"We weren't real sharp, but I thought we played hard, especially in the second half," Williams said. "I told the team at halftime, 'That's what it is going to take. You have to be tough to win.' It wasn't how many times the ball was going to go in the basket; it was how tough you play."


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