- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2002

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. Steve Blake ended the game on the bench with a towel around his neck and a wide smile across his face. Juan Dixon sat next to him, soaking in the glory of the moment. Maryland had just clinched a share of its first ACC regular-season title in seven years in impressive fashion.
The second-ranked Terrapins decimated Florida State 96-63 last night in half-empty Leon County Civic Center with dizzying fastbreaks, amassing 28 assists. Maryland won its 11th straight and improved to 14-1 in the ACC for the first time. The Terps are 24-3 overall also a first and can claim the regular-season title outright for the first time in 22 seasons with a victory Sunday night against Virginia or a loss by Duke.
"We shot the ball pretty well in the first half," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team fired away at 57 percent in the half and 55 percent overall. "The big thing is, we had 14 assists in the first half [28 overall]. When we pass the ball, we have pretty good shooters."
The Terps' 11-game ACC winning streak matches the longest in program history. The 33-point victory was Maryland's largest ACC road win in nearly half a century, since an 81-41 win at Clemson on Dec. 4, 1953.
Dixon led the way with 25 points and tied ex-Maryland star Albert King as the program's second-leading all-time scorer. Point guard Steve Blake led the frenetic passing attack with 12 assists. Drew Nicholas came off the bench to shred the Seminoles' zone. The junior finished with 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including three of four 3-pointers.
Maryland needs to beat Virginia in the final game at Cole Field House to clinch the regular-season title outright for the first time since 1980 and lock up the top seed in next week's ACC tournament.
"It's going to be emotional on Sunday," said Dixon, who also had five rebounds, three assists and three steals while playing 27 minutes. "They better have a lot of Kleenex on hand. I'm looking forward to finishing my career on a high note."
The mood in the locker room after the game was hardly one of a team that had just locked up a share of a championship. The Terps were cheerful but understated. Williams has done an excellent job keeping the team focused after big wins, and last night was no exception.
"Not right now," Nicholas said when asked if there was a sense of accomplishment. "There is still business to finish. Winning the title outright is our goal. We don't want to share a title."
The Seminoles who upset then-top-ranked Duke in January never stood a chance. Maryland went on a 22-4 run early in the first half and easily cruised past Florida State (11-15, 4-11 ACC), which is in jeopardy of dropping into the ACC tournament play-in game. The Seminoles have now lost eight of nine. Monte Cummings led Florida State with 17 points.
The Terps made it an easy night by pulling away early with a 16-2 run to gain a 22-4 lead. Baxter gave Maryland the lead after driving in from the left side for a layin to make it 8-7. Florida State cut it to 12-9 on a baseline jumper by Cummings before the Terps answered with 10 straight points to end what little drama there was at the start.
"They were like racehorses and doing their stretches going up and down the court," Florida State coach Steve Robinson said. "We played an outstanding basketball team. They were as good as advertised. They could be playing as well as any team in the country."
Maryland was able to build the lead by beating the Seminoles downcourt for easy layups and picking apart Florida State's 2-3 zone with outside shooting. Baxter scored on an off-balance layup to widen the lead to five before Nicholas and Blake each hit 3s over the zone.

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