- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 31, 2002

ATLANTA Juan Dixon saw his championship dreams crashing down. Kansas had cut a 20-point Maryland lead to a shaky five with just more than two minutes left in last night's national semifinal game.
But in the dire moments, the senior All-American had the answers as Maryland survived 97-88 before 53,378 in the Georgia Dome. Dixon scored a season-high 33 points to lead the Terps into their first national title game. Maryland will meet Indiana tomorrow night for the crown after a wild win over the relentless Jayhawks.
"It was a good night," Maryland forward Tahj Holden said. "It was almost our last."
It wasn't because of the savvy Dixon. After Kansas cut the lead to five with 2:14 remaining, Dixon changed the momentum with a 10-foot baseline runner. The Jayhawks cut it to 92-88 on a 3-pointer by Drew Gooden (15 points, four in the game's first 32 minutes) with 27 seconds left, but again it was Dixon who made two free throws as the Terps held on.
Maryland (31-4) held on because it beat Kansas on the inside despite star center Lonny Baxter being in foul trouble and finishing with just four points before fouling out. Chris Wilcox took over the frontline with 18 points and nine rebounds, and essentially shut down Jayhawks' All-American Gooden until the late run. Holden (13 points, six rebounds) came off the bench and filled in admirably for Baxter.
But it was Dixon who was calling for the ball at the end. His biggest shot came after Kansas' Jeff Boschee cut the lead to five with 2:14 left. The Jayhawks were on a 19-4 run when Dixon got the ball on the left side before delivering a baseline runner.
"We needed a basket," said Dixon, who had 19 points in the first half. "I wanted to step up. I beat my man and I saw Boschee come out. I just didn't want to make a charge."
There were other tense moments. Kansas got within 92-88 with 20 seconds left on a 3-pointer by Gooden. But Boschee called a timeout the Jayhawks didn't have an was assessed a technical foul. Dixon missed the foul shot, but he did make one of two after getting fouled following the inbounds' pass. Byron Mouton added two more with 13 seconds left and Maryland could finally start thinking about the title game.
It almost didn't happen after Maryland went ahead 83-63 with 6:02 left. The Jayhawks suddenly got hot as Boschee (17 points) and Nick Collison (21 points) took over.
"I was thinking about what I was going to say in the press conference if we lost this game," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "We started to foul when we got rebounds. You can't do that. We couldn't keep the clock going."
Maryland survived a ferocious comeback by the Jayhawks late in the second half and held on as Dixon made several big shots down the stretch. Maryland (31-4), which lost in its first national semifinal game last season, will meet Indiana tomorrow night for the title. The Hoosiers' run continued earlier last night with 73-64 upset over Oklahoma. Kansas (33-4), which spent much of the season as the country's top-ranked team, will go home after its first Final Four appearance since 1993.
The Terps overcame an early 11-point first-half deficit to take a 44-37 lead at halftime. They immediately expanded the lead to nine after a Wilcox jam. But the Jayhawks kept up their relentless running attack and scored five straight to cut the lead to 52-50 after a 3-pointer by Boschee and a power move by Collison around Ryan Randle for an inside basket.
Maryland expanded the lead to 56-50 on an layup by Randle and a layup by Drew Nicholas off an inbounds' feed from Steve Blake. The Terps pushed it to 60-52 as Blake lobbed the ball over an overpursuing Gooden, and Baxter finished with a layup. The play prompted Kansas to call timeout with 12:22 remaining.
Blake's 3-pointer gave Maryland a 63-55 as part of an overall 23-6 run. Holden had several big plays in the stretch, including a tip-in to make it 74-59. Dixon drained a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 83-63 with 6:02 left.
That's when Kansas proved why it was considered a serious title as it went on a 19-4 run behind Boschee's outside shooting and Nick Collision (21 points) taking temporary charge of the middle. Collison's inside basket cut it the Terps' lead to 87-79 before Boschee's trey from the left side cut it to 87-82 with 2:13 remaining.
Maryland will meet Indiana, which it hasn't beat in four tries. The last time they met was in 1981 NCAA tournament, when the Hoosiers easily won 99-64 in the second round of the Mideast Region. Indiana has won five titles, the last coming in 1987 under coach Bobby Knight.


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