- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

ATLANTA After soaring through the NCAA tournament on the wings of its multi-faceted offensive firepower, the Maryland Terrapins found themselves last night in a defensive tug-of-war with Indiana for the national championship.

The desire for both teams to bring home the national title was manifested in their outstanding effort on defense there was hustle, great anticipation and most of all, an unwillingness to yield even one easy basket.

In the end, the Terps showed they could win a defensive slugfest, mixing their trademark man-to-man with some full-court and trapping principles to out-work and out-hustle the Hoosiers in a 64-52 victory.

"We're a team that can beat you in many different ways," said Tahj Holden. "I definitely think we showed that today."

The triumph featured a side of the Terps that was seldom seen this season their ability to hunker down and play outstanding man-to-man defense and compound the effort with great hustle. Typically Maryland didn't have to rely on its defense because it had enough firepower to win games.

In addition to all of his offensive prowess, tournament Most Outstanding Player Juan Dixon registered five of the Terps' 12 steals. Lonny Baxter added three blocks.

Late in the game, with Indiana trailing by several points and sorely needing one of the 3-pointers they had used all game to help stay in it, the Terps refused to break down. Indiana made only 33.3 percent of its 3-point attempts in the second half and shot 34.5 percent from the field overall for the game.

"Their inside defense was great," said Indiana's Tom Coverdale, who missed eight of his 11 field-goal attempts. "They didn't have to double team as much, they could just lock down on our shooters. We haven't really faced a defense that could do the things that they did."

Throughout the season, Maryland had relied on its mostly steady man-to-man defense, the one that helped shut down Duke and Illinois in a huge victories at Cole Field House. With their talent, there are few players the Terps cannot lock up when they put their minds to it.

The problem was, so could Indiana, which made things extremely difficult for one of the highest-scoring teams in the country. But the Terps allowed just 52 points, the lowest allowed in a national championship game since Duke held Michigan to 51 in 1992.

After a Jared Jeffries bucket made it 44-42 Indiana with 9:53 to play, the Terps held the Hoosiers to two points a Dane Fife rebound and basket in the next 5:30, during which they took a 53-46 lead.

"Our game plan every time is to take what other teams give us," said forward Jarrad Odle, who did not score. "Maryland didn't give us anything."

Hustle plays also figured heavily for the Terps. With just under four minutes left, Byron Mouton nearly went out of bounds to save a loose ball; Drew Nicholas scored on the ensuing possession to make it 55-49. On the Terps' next possession, Dixon ran down a rebound of a Baxter missed free throw, and a short time later he was fouled and made two free throws for a 58-49 Maryland lead with 2:43 left.

The Terps' frontcourt, the most influential factor in Saturday's semifinal defeat of Kansas, did the job on its counterpart, pushing the Hoosier big men away from the basket and forcing tough shots. In the opening 20 minutes, Indiana forwards combined to make just one field goal in 11 attempts, including a 1-for-5 effort by Jeffries.

"We wanted to stop Jeffries from getting off early and get a hand up on their 3-point shooters," Holden said. "We weren't too effective with it early, but as we got in our defensive stance and our offense started clicking, everything seemed to turn out well defensively."

Indiana hit 10 3-pointers but managed only 10 other field goals.

The Hoosers' defense, whether it resulted in missed shots or turnovers, allowed the Terps runout opportunities that they parlayed into good scoring opportunities in transition. Then, the quicker and more athletic Terps had an extra step on the Hoosiers.

These points were crucial because, as the game progressed, it became evident that neither team was going to make things easy in halfcourt sets.

The team that controlled the tempo had an advantage; in half-court situations, Indiana had the advantage, and in the open court, Maryland held the upper hand.

Only 3-point shooting, which has helped carry the Hoosiers to victories against Kent State and Oklahoma in the tournament, kept them within striking distance. Indiana made just nine of 28 shot attempts in the first half, but five of those field goals came from 3-point range. The Hoosiers picked up the 3-point parade in the second half led by Dane Fife, who hit two on consecutive possessions to cut a 35-27 lead to 37-33 with 15:10 left.


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