- The Washington Times - Friday, March 23, 2001


ANAHEIM, Calif. Gary Williams waited 23 years to get to this special moment.

Williams finally crashed the Elite Eight for the first time in seven tries during his 23-season career last night as Maryland outlasted Georgetown 76-66 at the Arrowhead Pond in the NCAA West Region semifinals.

Lonny Baxter proved to be the dominant factor. The junior center finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds as the third-seeded Terrapins dominated the Hoyas on offensive rebounds in the second half to eliminate their area rivals. Baxter ended his night by chest-bumping with teammate Tahj Holden in celebration.

"[Williams] has been at Maryland for 12 years and finally broke past the Sweet 16," said Baxter, who made nine of 14 shots and had seven offensive rebounds. "He was delighted, and so were we. We finally did it."

It took eight years and 3,000 miles for the two Washington area rivals to finally meet for the first time since 1993. But that can't even compare to the journey Williams took to reach this point. The 56-year-old coach had led Boston College to two Sweet 16s and the Terps to four in the past seven years before finally shattering the barrier against 10th-seeded Georgetown.

The Terps move on to their first regional final since 1975, where they will face the winner of last night's late game between top-seeded Stanford and No. 5 Cincinnati tomorrow.

"We win one more game this year and all of a sudden I'm a lot smarter," said Williams, who went down the bench and shook each player's hand in the game's final seconds. "That's how it is in college basketball."

As Maryland (24-10) pursues its first Final Four berth in program history, the Hoyas (25-8) ends their Cinderella NCAA tournament run. Georgetown completed a renaissance season by reaching the Sweet 16 after a three-year absence from the tournament.

Maryland had a 51-41 advantage in rebounding, and kept the Hoyas' front line in foul trouble. Georgetown senior Ruben Boumtje Boumtje closed his career by scoring no points and fouling out in 19 minutes.

The Terps, who are regarded as a finesse team, banged bodies with the pounding Hoyas and used a zone defense effectively. Baxter led the way, but reserves Holden (10 points) and Mike Mardesich matched Georgetown's physical intensity.

"Lonny was unbelievable to do what he did at 6-8 against all those 6-11 guys," Maryland point guard Steve Blake said. "It's pretty amazing."

Kevin Braswell led Georgetown with 17 points, while Mike Sweetney added 10 points and 11 rebounds. Maryland's Juan Dixon was limited to 13 points by the Hoyas' zone defense but did grab five rebounds. Terps power forward Terence Morris had just six points on 1-for-11 shooting and had four shots blocked though blocking four himself.

But Morris' dismal night didn't matter as his inside teammates threw their weight around.

"It's funny," said Dixon, whose team had 16 offensive rebounds in the second half. "They may be the best rebounding team in the country. We made a pact to hit the glass hard tonight, and we got it done."

The Terps never trailed after taking a two-point lead on a putback by Byron Mouton (four points, seven rebounds) just before halftime to complete a seven-point run by Maryland. The Hoyas did cut a nine-point Maryland lead to 47-45 early in the half on a 3-pointer by Braswell. However, Maryland responded with seven straight points, beginning with a 3 from the right wing by Dixon. Consecutive Hoyas turnovers led to two foul shots by Danny Miller and a layup by Holden off Drew Nicholas' outlet pass.

And Maryland answered every Hoyas' comeback attempt after that. Georgetown cut the lead to 59-56 on Lee Scruggs' drive and short pull-up jumper. But the Terps had an answer each time the Hoyas got close, either with an inside basket or a layup off a fast break.

A short-range basket by Holden reopened the margin to five. Demetrius Hunter cut the Hoyas' deficit to 67-62 with 3:17 remaining before Miller answered with a layup and Maryland made its free throws down the stretch to pull away and give its coach a long-awaited gift.

"I'm so happy for Coach and for this team," said Dixon, who could only sit in front of his locker and try to comprehend the magnitude of the moment. "Of all the great players he's had, this is the team that got it done."

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