- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

SYRACUSE, N.Y. Steve Blake called his shot.
After taking a timeout with 34 seconds to play in yesterday's East Region final against Connecticut and Maryland leading 83-80, coach Gary Williams was in the middle of designing a high screen-and-roll play to get Lonny Baxter the ball. Juan Dixon and Byron Mouton were supposed to be secondary options on the play.
Blake who had missed his only two shot attempts to that point and had not scored on the day had another idea: He thought he would be open, and he wanted to take the shot. He told his teammates and Williams that much, and Williams said, "Go ahead and take it."
So when the Terps inbounded the ball with 14 seconds on the shot clock, and Connecticut's defense pushing them to the perimeter and refusing to allow them to run the original play, Blake improvised.
With 25 seconds remaining and five left on the shot clock, Blake pulled up on the right wing, pump-faked to get Tony Robertson to fly by him, and released a shot that Maryland fans will not soon forget, one that became a game-clinching 3-pointer in the Terps' 90-82 victory that sent them to their second consecutive Final Four.
"I got an open look. I pump-faked, the guy flew by, the shot clock was going down, so I knew I had to take the shot," Blake said. "I was confident the whole time. I told the guys at the timeout, I'm going to look to shoot this one. … [Emeka Okafor] was kind of indecisive, he wasn't sure whether to come at me or get the other guy. I saw Robertson running at me hard, so I knew if I pump-faked, he would probably fly at me, and he did."
"It felt good, it looked good … I knew it was going in."
Assistant coach Jimmy Patsos said Blake, Dixon, Drew Nicholas and Andre Collins practice those types of shots and trick shots at the end of practices, imitating players they see in the NBA. Tahj Holden knows the usual result all too well.
"I thought it was good all the way," Holden said. "He's done that to me against my team in practice day in and day out. We have end-of-the-game situations, and he just takes the ball and for some reason, every time he shoots, it goes in. I'm glad he does it, because it got us the win today. … He always comes through in the clutch."
Blake had said he played poorly in the Terps' victory over Kentucky on Friday, a game in which he shot 2-for-9 from the field, had four turnovers and took heat for some bad decisions. He redeemed himself yesterday. In addition to his huge shot, he posted six assists, four rebounds and most importantly, no turnovers.
"I didn't play particularly well the last game," Blake said. "This game, although I didn't make too many things happen, I didn't turn the ball over. I just wanted to be solid and not make any mistakes."
Said Patsos: "I'm so happy for Steve Blake, because he took a lot of criticism this weekend, and whether he played well or not, he had two wins, and I'll take him as my point guard over anyone in the country."

Holden's deja vu
Another regional final, another big 3-pointer from Tahj Holden.
In the first half of yesterday's game, neither team led by more than four points until the final seconds, when Holden drilled a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key to send the Terps to the locker room with a 44-37 advantage, a lead that was later erased but was big nevertheless.
The shot came on the same play as the one on which Holden hit a 3-pointer at the end of the half against Stanford in last season's regional final that put the Terps up 10 points. Holden had 14 huge points in that game and eight yesterday.
"This time I wasn't open on the fade I had to come to the ball," Holden said. "I was a step in front of the guy, and that's all I needed to get a shot off. I couldn't pass the ball, there was only three seconds left."

Seniors' memento
Typically, a net from a tournament championship might be kept in a trophy case or in the office of the coach. But when Gary Williams stepped down from the ladder after cutting the final strand of the net yesterday at the Carrier Dome, he tossed it to Juan Dixon, who wore it around his neck as he talked to reporters in the locker room.
"I wanted the seniors to have the net," Williams said. "That's theirs."

Fantastic Butler
Maryland pulled out a victory despite not accomplishing something it targeted entering yesterday's game: contain swingman Caron Butler.
Butler scored 32 points, including 26 in the second half, on 9-for-13 shooting, his second game of 30 or more points in four tournament games. He scored 34 in a second-round victory over N.C. State.
"My team was in a situation where they needed me," said Butler, a 22-year-old sophomore and the Big East co-Player of the Year. "… I had to come in and lead that team. I tried my best to do it. Maryland just made some great plays down the stretch."
Byron Mouton guarded Butler when the Terps played man-to-man defense, but they also played some zone.


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