Final Four Bid Thwarted By Terps

March 24, 2001


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    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - There are no All-Americans on this Maryland team. Itdoesn't need any.

    Six weeks after their season seemed to be coming apart, the Terrapins usedtheir speed and depth to upset top-seeded Stanford 87-73 Saturday and reach theFinal Four for the first time.

    'We're just really proud of ourselves,' said Lonny Baxter, who ledMaryland with 24 points in the West Regional final. 'I was really desperate tomake it to the Final Four, get coach there for the first time.'

    Coach Gary Williams made it in his 23rd year as a major college coach, thelast 12 with Maryland.

    He didn't allow himself to celebrate on the sideline until Drew Nicholasdribbled out the final seconds before heaving the ball high into the air.

    'I knew we'd come out and play well. Whether that would be enough against ateam like Stanford, I didn't know,' Williams said. 'The big thing is, we madeour shots.'

    The Terrapins hit over 58 percent from the field, including 9-of-13 from3-point range.

    Baxter, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound junior, had his way inside against the tallerCardinal players and went 11-of-18 to win the region's MVP award. Juan Dixonadded 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range.

    Over the years, the Terps have had their All-Americans, like Len Elmore, LenBias, John Lucas, Steve Francis, Joe Smith and Buck Williams. None of them tookthe team this far.

    These Terrapins lack such a star, but they're still playing.

    The third-seeded Terps, 10-1 since losing at home to lowly Florida State onFeb. 14 for their fifth loss in six games, are headed to Minneapolis, wherethey'll face the East Regional champion in the NCAA tournament semifinals nextSaturday.

    Top-ranked Duke and Southern California played for the East Regional titlelater Saturday in Philadelphia.

    Maryland's slump began Jan. 27 when it blew a 10-point lead over Duke in thefinal 54 seconds of regulation and lost in overtime. By the time it ended, theTerps were 15-9 and anything but a sure bet for the NCAA tournament.

    'The big thing is, we stuck together,' said Steve Blake, who had 13 pointsand seven assists.

    Maryland made 32 of 55 shots while Stanford, which hit 57 percent from thefield in its three previous tournament games, shot just 23-of-56 for aseason-low 41.1 percent.

    'We never got in a groove, we never got confident, and there you have it,'Stanford All-American Casey Jacobsen said. 'I think it was Maryland's offensethat did us in. We could not stop them from scoring.'

    Reserve Tahj Holden added 14 points and Terence Morris had 11 points and 10rebounds for Maryland, whose substitutes outscored their Stanford counterparts22-8.

    Ryan Mendez led Stanford with 18 points. Jacobsen added 14 points and ninerebounds, Michael McDonald had 12 points and seven assists, and Jason Collinsscored 12 for the Cardinal. His brother, Jarron, added nine points, and thetwins combined for just seven rebounds.

    'It seemed like the guys were just a little bit too relaxed,' Mendez said.'When you look in their eyes, there should be a look, `There's no way we'regoing lose this game.' I just thought that sometimes that look wasn't there.'

    Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said he believes Maryland has a legitimatechance to win the national title.

    'I'm sure Gary is relieved, excited, ecstatic,' Montgomery said. 'He's agreat coach, I'm sure it's a great load off his back. In a bittersweet sort ofway, it's nice to see Gary do that.'

    After being thoroughly outplayed in the opening 20 minutes, which ended withMaryland ahead 41-31, the Cardinal scored the first seven points of the secondhalf to draw within three points.

    But that was as close as they would get. A three-point play by Baxter and3-pointers by Dixon and Blake in a 68-second span put Maryland ahead by 12.

    Shortly thereafter, a 3-pointer by Holden and a jumper by Dixon gave theTerps (25-10) a 15-point lead with 14 1/2 minutes left.

    Stanford (31-3) got within nine points before Morris made a follow shot andBaxter a driving left-handed layup, putting Maryland ahead 69-56 with 6:24 toplay.

    The Cardinal were unable to pose a serious threat after that.

    Morris, who shot 1-for-11 in Maryland's 76-66 victory over Georgetown in theregional semifinals, made a 3-point basket to open the scoring before Jacobsenhit from long range - his school-record 82nd 3-pointer of the season.

    The Cardinal led 24-21 when Baxter went to work inside, scoring threebaskets to spark a 13-4 run, putting the Terps ahead for good. Morris addedfour points during the spurt.

    It was 34-30 when reserve Nicholas scored five straight points after a pairof steals by Dixon to give the Terps a 39-30 lead.

    A 3-pointer by Holden - another substitute - with four seconds left in thehalf gave Maryland its 10-point halftime lead. Holden, 9-of-21 from 3-pointrange in Maryland's previous 34 games, was 3-of-4 in this game.

    The sellout crowd of 18,008 at Anaheim Arena clearly favored the Pac-10champion Cardinal over the Terrapins of the Atlantic Coast Conference, playing3,000 miles from home.

    In the end, it didn't matter as the Cardinal, ranked second in the finalAssociated Press poll, failed in their attempt for a second Final Four berth infour years.

    Maryland, ranked 11th, reached the third round for the fifth time in eightyears before advancing to its first regional final since 1975.

    By JOHN NADEL
    AP Sports Writer

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