- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Aesop featured a tortoise in one of his most famous fables, but he might as well have been writing about the Maryland Terrapins, who played 2,000 varsity basketball games before arriving at the Georgia Dome last week. In their second Final Four appearance in the school's often illustrious 79-year basketball history, the Terps finally won college basketball's national championship by beating the Indiana Hoosiers before more than 53,000 screaming fans in the Dome. And the Terps did it in style, becoming the first team in collegiate history to defeat five previous champions (Wisconsin, Kentucky, Connecticut, Kansas and Indiana) en route to the title. As they had done all season, guard Juan Dixon and center Lonny Baxter, both seniors, led the Terps to their 64-52 victory, the team's 32nd of the season and the 111th win during their four-year careers both school records.

Claimed by skeptics four years ago to be too small to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Dixon, who is 2002 ACC Player of the Year and first team all-American (6'3, 164 pounds), led all players in points (18) and steals (five) against Indiana. And why not? After all, Dixon with the fourth-highest six-game scoring average in NCAA tournament history (25.8 points per game) and the tournament's MVP had earlier become the first player in ACC history to lead the league in both scoring and steals. In typical fashion, Dixon sank the title game's crucial basket, a three-point field goal that erased Indiana's only lead of the game. And while much has been said and written about how sloppy the title game was, let the record show that Dixon's three-pointer began a 22-5 run during which Maryland proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was worthy of its title.

As for Baxter, well, the 6'8, 260-pound center considered to be too "pudgy" for the ACC by most recruiters and who scored a season-high 29 points in the East Regional final, where he was named MVP waited for the national championship game to collar his season-high 14 rebounds, double the number of boards grabbed by any other player on the court.

For Maryland coach Gary Williams, who assumed the job at the program's nadir in 1989, reaching the pinnacle of college basketball in the 24th year of his widely successful career had to be especially satisfying. Fortunately, even the atrocious judgment of the vandals who wreaked havoc in College Park "celebrating" the university's historic achievement hasn't completely overshadowed the Terps' well-deserved championship season.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide