- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 27, 2002

The only teams that beat Duke this season play each other tonight. That's the main thing Maryland and Florida State have in common.
The second-ranked Terrapins tonight bring a 10-game winning streak to Tallahassee, where they can clinch a share of the ACC regular-season title. The Seminoles have lost seven of eight and are desperately trying to save coach Steve Robinson's job and avoid the conference play-in game.
"We have a chance to win it," Terps point guard Steve Blake said. "We have to win the game before you can say that. Florida State is a team that can surprise you."
Maryland is enjoying its best record ever at 23-3. Its 13-1 conference record is also its best, and it would set a program record with a 14th ACC win.
The Terps would earn at least a share of the regular-season title for the first time since 1995 with a win. That sets up an opportunity to capture the crown outright for the first time in 22 seasons against Virginia on Sunday in the final game at Cole Field House. Maryland also could win the league championship and earn the top-seed in next week's ACC tournament with one win if Duke loses either of its final two games. The third-ranked Blue Devils play at Virginia tomorrow night and play host to North Carolina on Saturday.
"We tied for first in Joe Smith's final year [a four-way split in 1994-95], so we've done that before," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who was adamant there would be no big celebration with a victory tonight. "Our goal is to beat Florida State and then get ready for the next game. That's where you have to keep it."
The Terps have all but wrapped up their first No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament, which starts in two weeks. One scenario has Maryland playing Patriot League-favorite American in a first-round game at MCI Center. Maryland has put itself in such a lofty position largely because of its success on the road, winning six of seven ACC games outside of Cole. The Terps, who are undefeated at home with a 14-0 overall mark, have never gone 7-1 in league road games.
"Our experience last year of living on the road basically for three weeks [in the NCAA tournament] certainly helped us, and then the seniors on the team," said Williams, of starting seniors Lonny Baxter, Juan Dixon and Byron Mouton and third-year starter Blake. "When you play in the ACC for three years and then you go in for your fourth year, there are no surprises about crowd intensity or things like that. I think all those things worked in our favor this year."
The Seminoles (11-14, 4-10 ACC) are a perplexing group that is destined for a fourth consecutive losing season and swirling rumors about Robinson's job status. Florida State stunned then top-ranked Duke 77-76 in Leon County Civic Center on Jan.6, but has petered out since. The Seminoles' lone win in their last eight games was a 66-59 victory over plummeting Virginia last week in Tallahassee.
"We're jockeying and trying to establish ourselves in terms of the tournament," said Robinson, who has not won more than six league games in any of his five seasons at Florida State. "When you are playing a Duke, a Maryland or a Kansas, you have to make plays and you have to make them on a consistent basis."
The Terps should have little problems getting up for this game, considering the stakes and that Maryland's lowest point of last season was losing to the Seminoles at Cole, when Florida State point guard Delvon Arrington danced on the scorer's table as fans booed the home team off the court.
It may serve Maryland well that it survived a major scare in Sunday's win over Wake Forest, when it started slow particularly on defense and allowed a season-high 56 points in the first half. The Terps needed a timeout request by Wake's Josh Howard when the Deacons had none remaining to set up the game-winning free throw with 1.3 seconds left.
The Terps know Sunday will be emotional with senior day and the final game at Cole that could end with net-cutting for winning the ACC regular-season title. Maryland has done an excellent job staying in the moment all season and the team claims it has given a championship celebration in the Cole finale little thought.
"It would mean a lot more if we beat Florida State," said Williams, who had never won an ACC regular-season title outright or tournament title in his previous 12 seasons in College Park. "Until we play Florida State, that's not something I'm going to spend a lot of time on."

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