- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 2, 2002

ATLANTA Mission accomplished.
The Maryland Terrapins claimed their first national championship in nerve-racking fashion last night with a 64-52 win over Indiana before 53,406 in the Georgia Dome. The Terps earned the monumental victory despite being frustrated on offensive and even trailing midway through the second half.
But as it has been throughout the Terps' glorious season, Juan Dixon came to the rescue. The All-American senior erased Indiana's only lead with a 3-pointer in the second half, and Maryland would not be denied its quest to cut down the nets. Dixon finished with 18 points and was named Final Four MVP. After the buzzer, he found fellow senior Lonny Baxter and the two tackled each other while sharing an embrace in the biggest win in Maryland's history.
"I feel like I'm dreaming," said Baxter, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. "It's hard to believe we won the championship. Juan and I were just talking [during the net-cutting ceremony]. We came here and nobody expected us to do anything like this. We won it."
Dixon's game-changing 3-pointer came after Indiana had turned an eight-point second-half deficit into a 44-42 advantage on a inside basket by Jared Jeffries with 9:56 left. Point guard Steve Blake broke a double-team on the Hoosiers' press and found Dixon all alone on the left wing.
"The crowd was getting into the game behind Indiana," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We needed something big, and Juan did what he's done all season."
Maryland's all-time leading scorer coolly sank the 3-pointer to regain the lead for the Terps at 45-44.
"He was wide open," said Blake, who struggled against Indiana's physical defense. "When you see the best shooter in the country, of course you want to get him the ball."
After Dane Fife cut the lead to one, Dixon answered again with a fallaway 17-footer to make it 49-46. A Baxter layup pushed it to 51-46, and the Terps were on their way to the title.
Thousands of Maryland fans were shouting "Gary" in celebration of the title and in appreciation of Williams, who won the title in his 24th year as a head coach. The Terps finished the season with a 32-4 record, winning 19 of their final 20 games.
"I've never done this before," Williams said after a long net-cutting ceremony. "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do. I'm happy. I'm tired. It's great."
The play that sealed it came after Indiana had cut Maryland's lead to 53-49 on a 3-pointer from Kyle Hornsby. Blake missed a 3-pointer and Byron Mouton made a spectacular save over the photographers on the baseline. Drew Nicholas finished the play with an over-the-shoulder layup off a feed from Tahj Holden to make it a six-point lead. Maryland then made nine of its next 10 free throws, while shutting out Indiana until the game's final shot.
The Terps, who have never been ranked No. 1 in school history, became the 33rd team to win the title. Maryland ended the surprise run of Indiana (25-12).
Dixon finished with 18 points, five steals and five rebounds and again had the momentum-changing basket.
After Fife cut the lead to 47-46, Dixon's fallaway jumper started a 17-6 run. The Terps defense held Indiana to just one basket in its next 14 possession as Maryland pulled away.
"A lot of people back home counted me out, didn't give me a chance," Dixon said. "I went out there and I get better each year, led my team to the national championship. It's a great feeling, man."


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