- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2001

The sun was rising, and the weather was not too sweet.
But that didn't stop a crowd of supporters from greeting the University of Maryland's basketball team at the break of dawn yesterday as the first Final Four squad in school history.
Terrapins senior captain Mike Mardesich, like many of the Terps, didn't get any sleep on the cross-country flight from Los Angeles. In fact, he hadn't slept since the night before Saturday's 87-73 victory over Stanford in the West Region final.
Mardesich was surprised by the warm, early morning welcome from about 200 fans outside Cole Field House.
"Not when its cold outside and at 6 in the morning," Mardesich said.
The team bus pulled up from Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 6:58 a.m., parting a sea of red-clad fans in front of the rear entrance to Cole. Terps supporters began to gather before 6 to get a glimpse of the team.
Most of these fans had slept, though. The droopy-eyed Terps, who hadn't been in College Park since leaving for Boise, Idaho, for their first- and second-round NCAA tournament games nearly two weeks ago, were just glad to be home.
After defeating Georgia State in the second round, the Terps went straight to Anaheim, Calif., for their regional games. They won't be in College Park for long, though. The team will attend practice and class through Wednesday, then leave for Minneapolis and the Final Four that night. The Terps will play Duke for the fourth time this season in the NCAA semifinals Saturday.
Michigan State, a 69-62 winner over Temple, and Arizona, an 87-81 winner over Illinois, will meet in Saturday's other semifinal.
"It feels great," Mardesich said. "It's good to be back home, to sleep in our own beds."
Maryland coach Gary Williams, who is making his first career Final Four appearance in 23 years as a coach, said he was going to "relax and watch" the other region finals before going to work today.
Students on campus have been in a frenzy since the final horn sounded in the victory over the Cardinals a little before 7 p.m. Saturday. Police shut down Route 1 at the intersection of Knox Road in front of bars R.J. Bentley's and Cornerstone right off campus for a considerable time Saturday night, with students hollering and dancing in the streets.
The fury undoubtedly will continue into today and the rest of the week for the students, who were just returning from spring break. Classes today were not canceled, although many students believed they should be.
The professors have to be lenient, junior Aaron Bernstein said. "If they're not, there is something wrong with them."
Sophomore Delaney Riehl did not have academics on her mind. She was getting ready to camp out for her Final Four tickets, which go on sale today for students for $140.
"We're driving out there," Riehl said. "I looked up a plane ticket $1,262. Four people driving, 20 hours, no problem."
It wasn't just students gathering to greet the Terps, though. A plethora of fans, from young children to senior citizens, endured the brisk morning temperatures.
"I've been a fan since I was 8 years old, and I'm 30 now," Scott Miller said. "So I figured it took so long to get here, I might as well come down and see them come in. Especially my son, he's 8 now, and I don't know how long it will take for them get here again. It's just excitement. It's never happened before for Maryland."
Maryland's destiny has been linked to Duke all season, and it will continue this week as the Terps prepare to play the Blue Devils for the fourth time this season.
Maryland is 1-2, but easily could have won all three. The first game saw the Terps blow a 10-point lead to the Blue Devils in the final minute at Cole. The heartbreaking loss started a 1-5 slide for Maryland that concluded with a loss to ACC doormat Florida State and caused many fans to question the Terps' heart and whether they even belonged in the NCAA tournament.
But the Terps rebounded and dropped Duke exactly one month after the debacle at home. Maryland almost defeated Duke again in a classic ACC tournament semifinal in Atlanta, but guard Juan Dixon's potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer rimmed out.
"There's nothing you can do go out there and play ball [against Duke Saturday]," said Dixon, who, along with region MVP Lonny Baxter, received the biggest ovation as he stepped off the charter bus. "Just go out there and have fun."


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