- The Washington Times - Friday, February 1, 2002

CHARLOTTESVILLE Drew Nicholas has a sweet stroke and a dramatic sense of timing.

The reserve guard did not score in the first 37 minutes of last night's game at Virginia. Instead, the Maryland sharpshooter waited until the end to provide the heroics.

Nicholas drained two deep 3-pointers as the No. 3 Terrapins erased a nine-point deficit with just over three minutes left and pulled off an improbable comeback to escape with 91-87 win over No. 8 Virginia before a stunned full house of 8,392 at University Hall.

Juan Dixon provided the go-ahead basket with 31 seconds left in an otherwise forgettable second half for Maryland's usual shooting star. Lonny Baxter made a strip, and Tahj Holden and Byron Mouton added the final three free throws to ice the victory in the final seconds.

"I wasn't confident [down by nine]," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "but I was determined not to get blown out."

Maryland (17-3, 7-1 ACC) maintained a share of first place in the league with Duke as it won its fourth straight and ninth in 10 games. Virginia (14-4, 4-4) lost its second in a row as the Terps won for the first time in Charlottesville in three seasons.

The Terps shot an astounding 25 of 26 (96 percent) from the foul line. Mouton had a season-high 21 points, and carried the Terps in the first half. And Williams got into a shouting match with officials when he felt Virginia's Travis Watson was standing too close to his team's huddle with 6:02 remaining.

Roger Mason scored 29 for Virginia but couldn't make the plays at the end.

But the lasting image is that of the rangy 6-foot-3 Nicholas delivering 3-point daggers into the Cavaliers.

"I came in to provide defensive intensity," said Nicholas, a junior whose first bomb came from 23 feet and cut Virginia's lead to 85-81 with 2:26 left. "The shots just presented themselves. I caught the ball. I was in rhythm. They went down."

Nicholas was part of a bench that scored 21 points in the second half after being held scoreless before the break. Holden (11 points, five rebounds) led the reserves, while Ryan Randle had four points while playing three minutes.

Nicholas' second trey a 23-foot rainbow from straight away cut Virginia's lead to 87-86 with 1:19 remaining. After Mason missed a 3-pointer and Baxter slapped the rebound out of bounds off Watson (19 points, 12 rebounds), Dixon gave the Terps the lead with 10-foot runner off the glass from the right side.

Holden made two free throws to widen the lead to three, before Nicholas blocked Mason's desperation 3-pointer.

Byron Mouton made one of two free throws the first one was the Terps only missed foul shot with 1.2 seconds remaining.

Mouton sank 11 of 12 free throws, and finished with a season-high 21 points.

"It seemed like everything was going Virginia's way," said Terps point guard Steve Blake, who finished with 11 points. "But we made it go our way by making steals and big shots. That's what great teams do."

Baxter had 14 points and 10 rebounds despite being in foul trouble, while Dixon finished with 16, but had just two in the first 16 minutes of the second half as he was covered by Mason.

The game-ending 17-4 rally began after Virginia scored seven straight to build a 83-74 lead on a layup by Watson (19 points, 12 rebounds), who was fouled but missed the free throw.

Dixon cut the lead to seven with two free throws with 3:06 remaining, and teammate Chris Wilcox made a steal at halfcourt off the press and drove for a breakaway dunk to cut it to 83-78 with 2:53 left.

After Virginia's Chris Williams (13 points) reopened a seven-point lead on a breakaway dunk over the press with 2:40 left, Nicholas took over with a deep three from the right side to give Maryland the momentum for good.

"The two I made were pretty far out," said Nicholas, who finished with six points after playing point guard for the foul-plagued Blake in the first half. "I just kind of got into a little groove. After I knocked down the first one, I felt good."

It was the second time in the half that Maryland battled back from a sizable deficit. It trailed 51-44 after a driving layup by Keith Jenifer less than two minutes into the half, and a 14-foot jumper by Mouton tied the game at 53-53.

The Cavaliers scored five straight and had 58-53 lead but the Terps rallied again and Holden tied the game at 58-58 on a short fallaway jumper.

"Drew is a great shooter," said Williams, whose team had a 45-34 rebounding advantage. "He makes them in practice all the time. We probably don't run enough plays for him. Today, he was open and put them in."

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