- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 9, 2002

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Gary Williams is famous for fiery speeches and in-your-face challenges to motivate his players. But Maryland's coach took the silent route yesterday with the lead slipping away in the second half of the ACC tournament quarterfinal against Florida State. The explosive coach just walked out of the huddle at the beginning of a timeout.
"I had nothing good to say," said Williams, who sat alone on the bench. "So I got out of there. I had made my point, I thought, the previous timeout. Then when I got back in there 30 seconds later, I just drew up a play and acted like nothing happened."
The top-seeded Terrapins had let a 12-point halftime lead dissipate to one when Williams abandoned his struggling squad. Maryland responded with a 21-0 run on its way to an 85-59 dismissal of the Seminoles before 23,895 at Charlotte Coliseum.
The Terps will face fourth-seeded N.C. State, a 92-72 winner over No.5 Virginia, in this afternoon's semifinals. Maryland, ranked second nationally with a 26-3 record, has won 13 straight and can match the longest streak in program history with a victory today. Maryland is seeking its first tournament title since 1984.
"I have seen some things from him that have not shocked me but surprised me," said forward Tahj Holden, who along with Ryan Randle provided a spark off the bench in the Terps' decisive run. "He wanted us to know we had to do it ourselves there was nothing he could do. I think that helped us out. We talked to each other and said, 'Let's go.'"
The eighth-seeded Seminoles had opened the second half with a 13-2 run, including nine straight points, to cut Maryland's lead to 42-41 with 15:10 left. Williams used two timeouts earlier in the half trying to re-focus his team and change momentum before a media timeout allowed him to try different tactics.
Williams said he did not plan to exit the meeting, but he has used the tactic before in his career, though not in several seasons.
"The first four minutes [of the second half] were a nightmare," he said. "Players have a lot of pride. They don't need me to tell them. They might need me to shake them up. That was the difference. In other words, if they didn't know [what to do], that would be one thing then I would have some sympathy for them. I don't have any sympathy for them there. They knew they weren't doing what they were supposed to be doing."
After the timneout, Steve Blake hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to trigger Maryland's pull-away. Juan Dixon (20 points) had five points and two assists in a run that didn't end until Holden's putback gave Maryland a 63-41 advantage with 9:16 left.
The Seminoles (12-17), were leg-weary after beating ninth-seed Clemson 91-84 in overtime in Thursday night's play-in game, which ended 15 hours before yesterday's tip-off. Florida State closed the season by losing 10 of its last 12 games, and coach Steve Robinson likely will be fired next week. ESPN reported that an announcement could come as soon as Monday.
Byron Mouton, who gave a fiery speech during the key timeout, added 18 points. Blake totaled 10 points, seven assists, five steals and five rebounds.
Starting with Blake's 3-pointer that gave Maryland a 45-41 lead, the Terps scored on six consecutive possessions. Mouton's two free throws widened the lead to six before a 10-foot baseline turnaround jumper by Holden made it 49-41.
"We went on like a 7-0 run," Dixon said. "I looked at their players' faces and they were done. They were like, 'We had our chance.'"
Dixon's trey from the left wing made it an 11-point bulge. The senior also led a fastbreak on the next possession after getting a long rebound, and fed Drew Nicholas a bounce pass for a layup. Nicholas was fouled and converted before Dixon's short baseline jumper widened the margin to 57-41.
"There was a little false sense of security," said Holden of Maryland leading by 16 in the first half and 12 at halftime. "They cut it down to one, and we had to take it from there. We just played our game from there by running our fastbreak, getting the ball inside and kicking it outside for open shots. That's what we did during the 21-point run."
The Seminoles failed to score on 12 consecutive possession, a span of nearly seven minutes. When Anthony Richardson broke the drought with a free throw with 7:56 remaining, the crowd responded with sarcastic applause. Monte Cummings (19 points) and Nigel Dixon (13 points, 12 rebounds) had kept Florida State in the game until the decisive timeout.


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