- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2002

Maryland's postseason journey to a straight Final Four didn't exactly begin as planned, but it was more than enough for the Terrapins to survive. It helped that All-American Juan Dixon picked the right time of year to have his biggest game.
The Terps sputtered, particularly on defense in the first half, before delivering an 85-70 victory over Siena last night in the first round of the NCAA East Regional before a packed, pro-Maryland crowd at MCI Center. Dixon rebounded from a recent shooting slump by scoring 29 points on 10-for-17 shooting and matched a career-high with five 3-pointers.
The senior sniper was the major reason the top-seeded Terps were able to have a relatively comfortable victory and avoided becoming a negative piece of history. No 16th seed has ever upset a No.1.
"How do I explain it if we lose this game?" Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "You can say you're going to Mexico. You can't say you're going to Disneyland."
Dixon's 29 points matched a season high, and he now needs seven points to pass Len Bias as Maryland's all-time leading scorer.
The Terps had hoped to play the role of neighborhood bully as the region's top seed playing just a bus ride from its campus over the No. 16 Saints. Maryland, after a few tense moments early in the second half when its lead was cut to 10, eventually showed its basketball class superiority over the Saints (17-19), the tournament's only team with a losing record. The Terps will face eighth-seeded Wisconsin tomorrow in the second round. The Badgers advanced by beating St. John's 80-70.
Maryland (27-4) was able to run away because of a frenetic transition game and its inside dominance. The Terps used a 15-2 run early in the second half to pull away and stay out of danger. Siena had cut the deficit to 52-42 on a tip-in by Prosper Karangwa with 17:55 left in the game. That prompted Williams to call time out for the Terps to reorganize.
"They came back and smashed us in the first four minutes," said Williams, who clearly was unhappy with the lackluster showing. "I was surprised."
The Terps came out of the huddle and reasserted their command. Dixon's pull-up jumper on the left baseline started the spurt. Steve Blake (11 points, 11 assists) took a rebound and drove the length of the court before scoring a short jumper in the lane. After a blocked shot by Maryland's Tahj Holden, Dixon's nailed a deep two-point field goal.
An outlet pass from Blake led to a Dixon layup. Maryland reserve center Ryan Randle finished the run with a power move and inside basket to make it 67-44 with 11:57 remaining.
"I came in the game and just wanted to be aggressive," said Dixon, after scoring the most points for Maryland in a tournament game since Joe Smith had 31 in a win over Texas in the 1995 tournament. "We had a team meeting last night, and I just wanted to set the tone to get us going for the next six games hopefully."
The Terps advanced despite several poor performances. Chris Wilcox and Lonny Baxter combined for four rebounds in the first half. Baxter came back in the second half and closed with 14 points and nine rebounds. Small forward Byron Mouton had a second weak showing, finishing with six points.
It was a frustrating day for the Terps, who may have felt the weight of being a top seed. Their defense also had several lapses that could have been fatal against a better team.
"We didn't sustain it for 40 minutes," said Williams, whose team was hurt inside despite its size advantage. "It seemed like every time we got a lead, Siena came back and made some shots."
Siena matched the Terps' offensive outburst early and trailed 24-21 after the Saints' Austin Andrew hit a 15-foot baseline jumper. Maryland then took control by scoring eight straight points to start a 25-8 stretch.
The Terps' run was started by pounding the ball inside and taking advantage in transition. The Terps added several 3-pointers to make it 47-29 as Holden was fouled while converting a dunk and made the free throw with 3:48 left.
Dixon had 20 points and four assists in the half after making six of eight field goals, including four of six 3-pointers. Blake had six points and six assists before intermission. The Terps recorded 15 assists by halftime and only six turnovers. Maryland shot 51 percent and made eight of 14 (57 percent) 3-pointers.
Baxter started Maryland's pull-away stretch with a powerful layup after Dixon's dribble penetration and dish. The Terps widened the lead to 28-21 on an alley-oop from Blake to Wilcox in transition. The point guard launched the ball after taking a few dribbles past midcourt and lofting the pass before the powerful finish.
Drew Nicholas widened the lead to 11 on a four-point play after getting hammered while sinking a 3-pointer from the left side and converted the free throw. Later Blake made an open trey from the top of the key to make it 39-27.
After a layup by Siena's Andy Cavo, Maryland again registered eight straight. Dixon was involved in all those points, by making two free throws, hitting a 3-pointer from the right wing with a man in his face and feeding Holden to widen the lead to 18.
Maryland's biggest lead before intermission was 50-31 after another trey by Dixon, but Siena cut the lead to 14 at the break. The Terps had a seldom seen lineup in the final minute before the break with five reserves on the court, including seldom-used guards Andre Collins and Calvin McCall.


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