- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Juan Dixon and Jared Jeffries are now on the same team, making a living with the Washington Wizards in the NBA. Both teams have revamped rosters and freshmen in key roles. And there is no title at stake.
Maryland's game against Indiana tonight will be a rematch of last season's national championship game, but the contest between top-10 teams in Indianapolis will be about pride and progress, not the ultimate prize that came when Maryland took a 64-52 victory in the Georgia Dome last April.
"We can't have the national championship rematch in our minds," Terrapins power forward Tahj Holden said. "We just have to focus on Indiana's team this year. We're a totally different team than we were last year, and they are a different team."
Both teams are trying to mold themselves into contenders capable of returning to the Final Four. The ninth-ranked Terps (3-0) have yet to face real competition and are coming off a 50-point victory over Duquesne. No.10 Indiana (4-0) won one of the nation's top preseason tournaments, the Maui Invitational, beating Massachusetts, Gonzaga and No.22 Virginia.
"This certainly gives us an intensity-level game like you'll get in the ACC," Maryland coach Gary Williams said of the team's first road game as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. "They would like to beat us after last year. I think if there is motivation, it is from that side in terms of making this more than just an ACC-Big Ten matchup."
Both teams lost most of their starting lineups from last season. Maryland returns only senior point guard Steve Blake, while the Hoosiers have two starters back in seniors Tom Coverdale and Kyle Hornsby. Each team elevated top reserves to starting roles and is relying on new players for instant contributions. The Hoosiers already have discovered a star in freshman guard Bracey Wright, the Maui MVP who leads the Hoosiers with 17.0 points a game.
Meanwhile, Maryland had the luxury of slowly breaking in its new class in three blowouts but now will face top competition in a hostile environment for the first time.
"We're at the point where our new players can play with the veteran players," said Williams, who added he doesn't have a set rotation. "It will be interesting to see how they respond. But they are ready for this step. It's time to do this."
The Hoosiers will be the first of perhaps four difficult games in a row for the Terps, who meet Notre Dame on Saturday in the opening round of the BB&T; Classic at MCI Center and could meet second-ranked Texas in the championship. No.8 Florida visits Comcast Center on Dec.14. Freshman Travis Garrison had 11 points Saturday against Duquesne, but the McDonald's All-American expects a different pitch starting tonight.
"It's going to be very intense, especially because of last year's championship game," the 6-foot-8 forward from DeMatha said. "It's going to be a lot different. I haven't really experienced anything like it."
Coverdale, a gritty redhead, is the heart of the Hoosiers. The point guard is averaging 14.8 points and 5.3 assists. Like Maryland, Indiana has an experienced frontcourt that was productive off the bench last season in 6-9 senior Jeff Newton, who played 28 minutes in the title game, and George Leach, a 6-11 junior who is expected to play despite missing Sunday's win over North Texas with a sprained ankle.
The Hoosiers are physical and have outrebounded each of their opponents, led by Leach (11.3 rebounds) and Newton (8.8). In contrast, Maryland's starting frontcourt has failed its boards. Center Ryan Randle is averaging 4.7, while Holden is at 2.0 in 22 minutes a game.
"If we don't rebound this game, we will really get exposed," said Williams, whose leading rebounder is Garrison at 5.3 a game.
Terps shooting guard Drew Nicholas will look to continue his scoring tear. The senior is averaging 21.0 points and is shooting 62 percent from the floor and 53 percent (8-for-15) on 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Indiana is making a blistering 41 percent of its 3s. Wright has made 12 of 28 (43 percent) from long range.
"It doesn't matter if he is 25 feet out," Indiana coach Mike Davis said. "He takes it when he gets it and just makes plays."
The national title rematch will feature newcomers like Wright and Marshall Strickland, a freshman from Winfield, Md., who also is making an instant impact. The game won't have the star power or the hype of the last meeting. While it won't be nearly as meaningful, it should be entertaining.
"Seeing Indiana again is nice," Holden said. "They have a great tradition. One of the stats from last year is Indiana had never been in a championship game and lost. I think they are going to remember that. I think they are going to play harder against us than they have all season just because of last year."
Note The ACC had an overall 25-1 record in nonconference play going into the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which opened with Iowa visiting Florida State last night. The only loss was Indiana's 70-63 win over Virginia in the Maui title game.



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