- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 23, 2002

SYRACUSE, N.Y. They did not play this one to be pretty last night.
They played this one to survive, to last another game, to last another round in the NCAA tournament.
The Maryland Terrapins outlasted the Kentucky Wildcats 78-68 inside the Carrier Dome, and there was nothing efficient about it, nothing clean, nothing easy.
The Terps committed too many turnovers and missed too many easy shots and had too many mental lapses. But every time they appeared to be on the verge of trouble because of their miscues, the Wildcats would respond in kind. The Wildcats would throw the ball away or take a questionable shot or lose their minds for a moment.
Sometimes, when you get this deep into the tournament, you just try not to blink first. Sometimes you just clench your teeth and let the other team beat itself. Sometimes that is good enough, as it was for the Terps against the Wildcats.
It was a game decided on mental toughness and discipline. It was a Byron Mouton kind of game. It was his game as much as anyone else's. Mouton finished with 14 points, six rebounds and two assists in 31 minutes.
Mouton lacks the requisite sizzle. He plays with his guts. You can't tell his value by the numbers. The numbers merely indicate a sturdiness.
Mouton does not jump over anyone. He leaves no one behind with his first step. He bumps you. He elbows you. He employs good position as another mechanism of persuasion.
They won't ever retire his jersey at Maryland. They won't tear up in his memory, if they remember him at all in the years ahead.
Mouton was not one of them in the beginning. He did not start out with Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter.
Mouton used to be one of the pretty people in Conference USA. Back then, when he was at Tulane, Mouton was rated among the top 15 freshmen in the nation by Sports Illustrated. Mouton finished second to Larry Hughes as the C-USA Rookie of the Year. Hughes went to the NBA, Mouton eventually to College Park.
No one notices Mouton much these days. Dixon has been named just about everything there is to be named in college basketball, followed by Baxter, Steve Blake and Chris Wilcox. They are all-this or all-that or voted most likely to save a Third World country from some awful calamity.
Mouton has earned just one honor this season: honorable mention All-ACC. In a season of accessories, Mouton is a minimalist. He plays the game. No window dressing is necessary. What does it mean anyway? What did it mean to Duke in the waning seconds against Indiana?
To hear Indiana coach Mike Davis tell it, the Hoosiers owed a lot of their success, and game plan, to Terps assistant coach Dave Dickerson.
If it is all the same to Davis, Dickerson could do without the compliment and exposure. Professional courtesy is not supposed to cross conference affiliation at tournament time, as Duke already has filed away for next season.
Mouton goes with the site of the East Region. It is a hard town. Fortunately, the watering holes stay open until 4 in the morning. It takes that long to forget the place.
Typically, Mouton was all around the ball against the Wildcats. They probably missed that in the far reaches of the concrete bowl with the mushroom top. They don't see the game up there. They just imagine it.
The Terps led the Wildcats 39-33 at halftime after Wilcox delivered a dunk shot just seconds before the buzzer sounded. It was an uneven 20 minutes for both parties, shaky in spots.
The Wildcats are the antithesis of the Terps. The Wildcats are built like runway models. They haven't eaten in years. They could have coach Tubby Smith up on charges of nonsupport.
If Tayshaun Prince skips too many more meals, he could disappear. Jules Camara is a 7-footer who feels threatened around a mild breeze.
Baxter could knock down both Prince and Camara with one hand tied behind his back. In fact, Baxter appeared to do something like that. It went down as his second foul.
The Terps eventually finished the job with their muscle. They had too many big bodies for the Wildcats. They had too much strength.


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