- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

It was hard to tell Maryland was in the midst of blowing out Wisconsin based on the reactions from the bench late in Sunday's game. Byron Mouton had a menacing scowl as he stood up and yelled instructions to a teammate on the court. Juan Dixon sat still with a keen eye that would suggest a tight game. Meanwhile, the scoreboard had Maryland up by 20 and counting.
Terps coach Gary Williams did flash a rare wide smile while waiting to do a television interview on the court after Maryland's 87-57 dismissal of the Badgers in the second round of the NCAA tournament at MCI Center. That was one of the few light moments. Even Maryland's locker room was surprisingly subdued after the East Region's top seed advanced to the Sweet 16 in efficient and impressive fashion.
"It's about business," said Maryland guard Drew Nicholas, who hit two 3-pointers in the first half to propel his team to its biggest NCAA-tournament win. "This is one of the things we wanted, but we don't want to stop here. We're on to bigger and better things."
Maryland (28-4) matched its most wins in a season on the same day Dixon became the program's all-time leading scorer. The Terps took yesterday off, and today will begin preparing for Friday's region semifinal with Kentucky in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. The fourth-seed Wildcats (22-9) have rebounded from a tumultuous regular season that saw them lose four of their final nine games and advanced to the Sweet 16 after Tayshaun Prince poured in 41 points in the Wildcats' second-round win over Tulsa.
The Maryland-Kentucky winner will meet either Connecticut or Southern Illinois in the region final Sunday for a trip to the Final Four. Like Maryland, the second-seed Huskies (26-6) swept two games at MCI Center over the weekend. But unlike the Terps, UConn had two tough games and needed a controversial call to help it to a 77-74 win over N.C. State on Sunday. Caron Butler was fouled on an errant 3-point shot with 11 seconds left, and converted all three foul shots on his way to scoring 34 points.
Southern Illinois (28-7) is wearing the Cinderella slipper to Syracuse. The 11th-seed Salukis upset No. 6 Texas Tech and Bob Knight in the first round before erasing a 19-point first-half deficit and shocking third-seed Georgia Sunday in Chicago.
Kentucky is hoping to use the NCAA tournament to prove its No. 4 preseason ranking was justified. Former DeMatha High star and junior shooting guard Keith Bogans is the key component, but Prince was the one who put a smile on famous-Kentucky supporter Ashley Judd's face Saturday in the 87-82 victory over No. 12 Tulsa. Prince, a 6-foot-9 rail-thin senior, connected on six of eight 3-pointers.
"I know a lot of people have been looking ahead in their brackets towards this game," Nicholas said. "Both of us have a lot of size. Tayshaun Prince, I think he plays the three [small forward]. It's going to be a great game."
Chris Wilcox may draw the assignment to play Prince in a physical manner, like he did when he shut down Duke's big man with a perimeter game, Mike Dunleavy, in Maryland's win at Cole Field House.
While the Terps will try to pacify Prince, the Wildcats will search for an answer to Maryland's newly anointed scoring king. Dixon matched his season-high with 29 points in wins over Siena and Wisconsin in the first two rounds, and his 2,172 career points move him 23 ahead of the late Len Bias for the most in team history.
"He's never felt like he's arrived," said Williams, of the tenacious defender and explosive scorer. "He's always felt he has something to prove."
Dixon had 25 points over a 13-minute span starting late in the fist half against Wisconsin that saw Maryland turn a close game into a laugher. The senior, who made four of seven 3-pointers, has been feeling so comfortable that he's brought out some of his blacktop game by going one-on-one and demoralizing defenders in good position by using his quickness to create separation before launching open shots.
"He was hitting every shot it seemed," Maryland point guard Steve Blake said. "When he is doing that, we are going to be hard to stop."
Dixon credits Blake for getting him the ball in scoring positions and teammates for setting picks to get him open shots. The Baltimore native was on top of his game even when it was over when a television reporter said, "Forget Len Bias, you're the new scoring king." Dixon feels a connection to Bias, who died of a drug overdose the summer after his final season at Maryland.
"You can't forget Len Bias," said Dixon, clearly offended by the suggestion. "He was a great player and a great person even though I didn't know him personally. I heard a lot about him with [Maryland assistant coach] Dave Dickerson being his teammate."
The Terps are putting everything together heading into the Sweet 16. Dixon's game is that much more effective thanks to Maryland's strong inside play. Wilcox rebounded from several poor overall games with an 18-point, seven-rebound game against Wisconsin. The 6-10 power forward and center Lonny Baxter (16 points, seven rebounds against the Badgers) showed they are capable of being a dominant front line even against bigger opponents.
Maryland also rediscovered its suffocating defense against the Badgers after a ho-hum 15-point win over Siena in the first round. The Terps didn't have any major celebration after earning a trip to the Sweet 16, but they left MCI Center feeling strong after the 30-point rout that has many believing Syracuse will be just a weekend stopover before arriving in Atlanta for the Final Four.
"We feel we are unbeatable right now," said Mouton after the Terps outrebounded the bulkier Badgers 41-32. "With confidence like that we can go a long way. Right now, we feel like we're unstoppable."


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