- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

SAN ANTONIO The Maryland Terrapins hope to have a shootout tonight in the Sweet 16 in the Alamodome. Michigan State would prefer a slow-paced affair.

The Terps will continue their defense of the national championship against the surging Spartans in a South Region semifinal. Sixth-seeded Maryland will look to its senior backcourt of Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas as it makes a run for a third consecutive Final Four. Seventh-seeded Michigan State will look to neutralize the two guards, control the boards and win ugly.

"I'm sure they are going to try to slow it down and get into their halfcourt defense," said Blake, who had 17 assists in Maryland's first two tournament games. "We'll try to get it uptempo and run whenever we can."

The team that controls the pace likely will earn its way into the Elite Eight and meet the winner between top-seeded Texas and No. 5 Connecticut for a berth in the Final Four on Sunday.

The Terps (21-9) showed they can be physical in a dominating 77-64 upset of third-seeded Xavier in the second round last week. Center Ryan Randle awoke from his late-season slumber and posted two of his best games at Maryland with 15 points and 16 rebounds against UNC Wilmington and 17 points against Xavier.

Michigan State comes into the weekend as perhaps the tournament's hottest team after embarrassing Florida 68-46 in the second round. The Spartans (21-12) dominated thanks to defense and rebounding. Michigan State's squad is deep but composed largely of freshmen and sophomores.

Erazem Lorbeck has emerged as a force, averaging 14.5 points and a team-high 6.0 rebounds in the tournament. The 6-foot-10 sophomore from Slovenia is one of several bruising frontcourt players, with 6-11, 240-pound freshman Paul Davis and 6-9, 250-pound senior Adam Ballinger. Aloysius Anagonye, a 6-8, 260-pound senior, is the only player left from the Spartans' 2000 national championship team.

"They like to bang on the inside and get second chances on offense rebounds," Randle said. "They like to get physical."

Maryland coach Gary Williams expects Michigan State to be one of the more grueling opponents the Terps have faced this season.

"They remind me of Wake Forest," said Williams, who held a private practice yesterday morning before an afternoon shootaround at the Alamodome. "I think the further you go in the tournament, the more physical it gets. … They are about rebounding and getting loose balls Michigan State has always been like that. They changed during the season. They run a little more."

The Spartans allow just 60.6 points a game, while the Terps average 80.5. Sophomore converted point guard Chris Hill (14.0) is the only Michigan State player who averages double figures. Maryland will have a decided advantage with five seniors in key roles, particularly the proven backcourt that has been a catalyst in the tournament.

"I hope [experience] means a lot because we have a lot of seniors," Williams said. "But if you look at Michigan State, to go in and beat Florida in Tampa they have enough experience."

The coaching matchup between Williams and Tom Izzo also should be intriguing. Izzo was the last coach to take a team to three consecutive Final Fours from 1999 to 2001, including a victory in the 2000 championship game. He knows what defending a title is like.

The Spartans' coach sees Maryland as a different team than last year's champions, though it still has one major component.

"One advantage Maryland has is [having] their point guard back," said Izzo, who lost Mateen Cleaves after the championship season. "Their quarterback [Blake] is awfully good, too. It's hard to knock off a team that has experience and has been there as long as they have."

The Terps have surprised many by getting this far but have not taken much comfort in reaching the region semifinals despite the loss of four starters from last year. Maryland is in its fifth Sweet 16 in six seasons and two wins away from reaching a goal few outside of College Park could have imagined this season.

"It's just the next step," Nicholas said. "We're not looking at it as us being two steps away from the Final Four. We have to look at it as winning the next game. Otherwise, our season is over."

Note Maryland assistant coach Dave Dickerson was expected to interview for the vacant head job at Clemson yesterday. Dickerson met with Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips in San Antonio. Ex-Chicago Bulls coach Tim Floyd, Western Kentucky's Dennis Felton and Oklahoma State assistant Sean Sutton already have been interviewed by Clemson.

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