- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

ATLANTA The University of Maryland men's basketball team is one win away from the sport's ultimate prize.
A year after reaching the school's first Final Four, Maryland will face Indiana tonight in the National Collegiate Athletic Association basketball championship game at the Georgia Dome.
At stake? A chance to bring the Terrapins' first national title back to College Park.
"We have a great opportunity to do something special," Maryland senior guard Juan Dixon said. "Hopefully we can go out there and perform well. Hopefully guys can stay focused for one more night. Hopefully we can win."
At 31-4, Maryland already has enjoyed the most successful season in school history, setting a program record for victories, capturing the school's first outright Atlantic Coast Conference title since 1980 and earning the team's first trip to the title game.
Nevertheless, the Terps likely will consider it all for naught if they fail to win the title, a goal they have pursued with single-minded zeal since archrival Duke overcame a 22-point deficit to hand them a devastating loss in last year's national semifinals.
"You could tell the first day of practice the intent of this team," coach Gary Williams said. "These guys were willing to do whatever it took to get here."
Featuring four returning starters from last year's team, top-seeded Maryland is deep, talented and experienced a rare trifecta in today's bolt-for-the-pros college game.
Dixon, an All-American and the ACC player of the year, leads the Terps with 27.4 points a game, the best individual mark in the tournament.
Senior center Lonny Baxter, a burly Silver Spring native, anchors the Terps' frontline along with senior forward Byron Mouton and sophomore phenom Chris Wilcox, an explosive leaper and crowd-pleasing dunker.
Junior point guard Steve Blake runs Maryland's offense, and the team boasts a strong bench led by juniors Tahj Holden and Drew Nicholas.
Dixon, a fearless marksman and the team's toughest player, scored 33 points in Maryland's Saturday-night semifinal victory over Kansas, also a No. 1 seed.
"Juan has been a catalyst," Williams said.
For Williams, a victory would be especially sweet: A Maryland graduate, the oft-frazzled coach has rebuilt the school's basketball program following a dark period that included the death of superstar forward Len Bias in 1986 and a three-year NCAA probation that began in 1989.
While Maryland has a long and storied basketball tradition and counts legendary players such as Buck Williams, Tom McMillen, John Lucas and Albert King among its alumni, the school has never won a national title, laboring in the shadows of ACC rivals North Carolina and Duke.
"I always felt that when I left there and went into high school coaching that there's no reason Maryland couldn't be as good as anybody else," Williams said. "I guess that was always in the back of my mind."
While Maryland's season has been nothing short of storybook, No. 5 seed Indiana has swept through the tournament in, well, storyboard fashion.
By defeating top-ranked Duke and No. 2 seed Oklahoma, the lightly regarded Hoosiers have evoked comparisons to the Gene Hackman film "Hoosiers," in which an underdog Indiana high school team wins the state championship.
Indiana, which owns a 25-11 record, has won four previous national titles. The last team with as many as 11 losses to win a championship was Kansas in 1988.
"We don't consider this season and our wins as upsets," guard Tom Coverdale said. "We honestly think we can win every game."
Maryland only wants to win one more.
"We just want to go out in style," Mouton said. "We feel this is our year. We are going to do whatever it takes."


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