- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Maryland guard Steve Blake exited in style.
Blake hit three straight 3-pointers in his final home game to seal Maryland's 91-52 victory over Clemson last night before 17,950 at Comcast Center. The senior finished with 14 points in his school-record 130th start that was relished by fans and even drew a marriage proposal from one banner-waving woman seated near the Terrapins bench.
"You want something big to happen," Blake said. "To hit three 3-pointers what better way to go out?"
No.14 Maryland (18-7, 10-4 ACC) toyed with Clemson (15-9, 5-8) during Senior Night that showcased the five elders. Senior guard Drew Nicholas followed Blake's three treys with three of his own during a 27-4 run to open the second half that sealed the game with 14 minutes remaining.
Center Ryan Randle led three seniors in double figures with 18 points and six rebounds. Blake added seven assists to his 14 points while Nicholas scored 13. Coach Gary Williams challenged the seniors at halftime to close with a win.
"I told the seniors we had 20 minutes left at home," he said. "They responded unbelievably."
Maryland continues to play its best basketball of the season as the Terps' bid for the top seed in the ACC tournament and a top-four seed in the NCAA tournament next month. The Terps trail ACC leader Wake Forest (19-4, 9-3) by percentage points. Maryland went 3-1 in eight days after beating Wake Forest and North Carolina and losing at Duke. Maryland finishes the regular season at N.C. State Sunday and Virginia March 9.
"I thought we played great in every game," Williams said of the recent stretch. "We're hitting it at a pretty good time."
Blake continues to emerge as the leader after a recent stretch of standout games. He converted four of five 3-pointers with a coolness that settled the Terps.
"It seems like whenever we need Steve to hit one he's there," Williams said. "He had a certain toughness a cold thing. He thinks he's the best player."
Maryland's underclassmen also provided insight into next season as the seniors departed with five minutes remaining. Forward Jamar Smith dominated during short stints to finish with 13 points and four rebounds. Guard John Gilchrist scored a career-high 13 points.
Not that Maryland didn't test Williams' patience. Sloppy defense let Clemson close within five points at halftime while Maryland later committed its first 10-second backcourt violation of the season. Still, the miscues were quickly forgotten during the Terps' devastating scoring streaks.
"We could have put the game away in the first half," Nicholas said, "but there were also some stretches where we played really well. It reminded me of last year when we made runs that killed people."
It was a striking change from the earlier meeting. Maryland struggled past Clemson 52-47 on Jan. 25 and both teams shot poorly. Instead, the uptempo game saw both teams running regularly.
The Terps led 36-31 at halftime after squandering a 17-point lead. After trading baskets nine times to trail 11-9, Maryland sandwiched 11-0 and 12-0 runs around a Clemson layup for a 30-13 lead with 7:31 remaining. However, Maryland managed only one basket and four free throws the rest of the half during Clemson's 18-6 streak.
Maryland opened the second half with a pair of Randle dunks. Ironically, Maryland wouldn't score another two-point shot for almost nine minutes as the Terps hit eight 3-pointers and two free throws before Smith's 10-footer for a 68-37 lead with 10:54 left.
"Our guys were nervous in the first half," Williams said. "We tried to play through it. In the second half, they relaxed. We weren't going to let it slip away. The seniors had something to prove."


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