- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 24, 2002

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. The swagger is back.
The Maryland Terrapins showed why they are the nation's third-ranked team and a national title contender last night with an 85-63 pummeling of No. 21 Wake Forest. The Terps dominated the Demon Deacons with a smothering defense and got offense from unlikely sources namely Steve Blake and Tahj Holden in the rout before a packed house of 13,886 at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
"That was the best 40 minutes we've put together this year," said Juan Dixon, who finished with five steals and tied Blake with a team-high 19 points. "I think [they quit]. They didn't look like the same team I saw on TV the last few weeks. They weren't competing."
Maryland (15-3, 5-1 ACC) moved into a first-place tie with Duke partly by holding Wake to 40 percent shooting. The Terps, who had allowed 94.5 points over their last two games, won their sixth straight over the Deacons and ended Wake's nine-game winning streak at home. The Terps have won seven of their last eight, while the Deacons (13-6, 3-3) lost for a third straight time, with the first two coming on the road to No. 7 Virginia and top-ranked Duke.
"We let them do whatever they wanted on offense," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said after Maryland shot 52 percent overall and 61 percent in the second half. "And that's to their credit. They are an excellent, excellent basketball team."
Blake came into the game averaging 7.1 points but erupted when he was left uncovered by a sagging defense, sinking three of four 3-pointers. But he was just one of several unlikely offensive producers.
With center Lonny Baxter (12 points) limited by foul trouble, Holden broke out of his personal funk with 11 points after not scoring a field goal in his last two games. Drew Nicholas (10 points) and Holden were the catalysts as Maryland led 36-30 at halftime.
Reserve center Ryan Randle, Chris Wilcox and Holden were all part of a physically intimidating gang that exposed the Deacons and particularly power forward Darius Songaila as a soft group that shies away from contact. Songaila scored a team-high 16 points with 10 rebounds but made just six of 16 shots and often missed short jumpers rather than attack the basket.
"They had seen it in the papers that Wake Forest was going to come out and be physical," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team forced 17 turnovers. "That's as solid as we've played at both ends of the floor all year."
Nicholas and Holden sparked Maryland in the first half while Baxter mainly sat on the bench and Dixon was held to four points. However, it was that pair that gave Maryland the lead for good when Dixon lofted a 60-foot outlet pass and Baxter finished with a layup to make it 6-4 and start a 9-1 run. The Terps finished the stretch with seven consecutive points on a putback by Wilcox, a short jumper by Holden and a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Holden.
"I had confidence today," Holden said. "Sometimes I get down on myself. Today I was taking shots rather than pass them up."
The bench scored 27 points for Maryland, including 17 in the first half. After Wake cut the lead to 17-14 on a tip-in by Josh Howard, Blake nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key off a screen at the top of the key by Holden. Nicholas outscored Wake 8-3 by himself late in the half with his second 3-pointer from 23 feet giving the Terps a 34-23 lead.
The Terps pulled away even further early in the second half. After Wake cut the lead to 38-32 on a putback by Josh Howard, Maryland went on a 14-2 run. Baxter started it with a follow layup. The Terps widened the lead to 10 after Howard was called for a technical foul for forearming Byron Mouton and Dixon made the two free throws.
Maryland scored seven straight to make it 52-39 after a Wilcox dunk following a nifty over-the-shoulder entry pass from Holden, a 3-pointer by Dixon and a layup by Holden.
The Terps iced the game with an eight-point run, starting with an 18-foot jumper by Blake. Nicholas ended the stretch with two free throws to give the visitors a 16-point advantage.
"Our defense was big," Dixon said. "The last two games in the ACC [against Duke and Clemson], we struggled on defense. Tonight we played strong halfcourt defense. … That's the way we need to play to be a championship team."

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