Down stretch, Dixon steals the spotlight

MARYLAND NOTEBOOK

UM soph scores 4, swipes 2 in 10-0 run

Blake guts it out

February 07, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Juan Dixon struggled walking over to the bench during a timeout with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. Cramping up in both legs, the Maryland sophomore guard fought through the pain by thinking back to coach Gary Williams' message on a locker room board at halftime.

In red marker, Williams wrote "believe" in all capital letters and underlined it.

But Dixon didn't just read it. He rallied his teammates around it.

The Calvert Hall graduate scored four straight points to start the game-ending 10-0 run and finished off North Carolina State by making two steals in the final 1: 08.

"I just took it upon myself to go out there and gamble," said Dixon, who recorded all five of his steals in the last 17 minutes. "I wanted to try to get steals, get the team into it and get the crowd into it. I just wanted to give everything to help this team win."

Said Williams: "I tell you what, if Juan would mean that much to the team every game as he was today, I would take 5-for-15 [shooting from the floor] every game. Because without his effort, there is no way we come back and win that game. He was the catalyst."

Dixon, who hit the game-winning shot against Illinois two months ago, has shown little hesitation in the closing minutes of games this season. After missing 10 of his first 14 shots, Dixon hit a turnaround shot over State's Justin Gainey with 2: 39 left to pull Maryland to within 73-72.

And when the Terps took only their second lead of the game at 74-73 with 1: 14 remaining, it was Dixon who stole the show. The Atlantic Coast Conference's leader in steals, Dixon ended the Wolfpack's next two possessions by forcing turnovers.

First, he chased down Damien Wilkins from behind, stripping the ball cleanly away from the driving State forward with 1: 08 remaining.

Just 53 seconds later, at the top of the key, Dixon deflected a telegraphed pass from Wilkins to Anthony Grundy down court. After beating everyone to the other end, Dixon grabbed the bouncing ball before it went out of bounds and then called timeout in mid-air. He then showed the effect of the worst cramps in his basketball career as he limped off to the side.

So was it worth the victory?

"This is the best comeback I've ever had," he said. "I'm proud of myself and I'm proud of this team because we showed heart. It's right on the board; we believed that we could win the game."

Blake gives lift off bench

A surprise scratch from the starting lineup was freshman point guard Steve Blake, who injured his left ankle Wednesday vs. Virginia and missed the past two practices. He was replaced by Tahj Holden and Danny Miller shifted to the point as the Terps altered their starting five for the second time this season.

Blake didn't sit long, coming off the bench 2 1/2 minutes into the game. He finished without a turnover in 29 minutes -- a first in his college career -- and had at least six assists for the 10th straight game.

"That was hard because I didn't know how good his conditioning was coming in today because he didn't really run for three days after the Virginia game," Williams said. "I think he forgot about his ankle as the game went on. He gutted it out. Not turning it over down the stretch was really big for us."

ACC standings

...........................................Conference ..........................Overall

School .............................W-L ........Pct................... W-L ..........Pct.

Duke .................................9-0 .....1.000 .................18-2.......... .900

Maryland ...........................5-4....... .556 .................16-6.......... .727

N.Carolina .........................5-4....... .556 .................14-9.......... .609

N.C. State .........................5-4....... .556................. 15-5.......... .750

Virginia ..............................5-4....... .556................. 15-7.......... .682

Fla. State ..........................4-5....... .444.................. 9-11......... .450

Wake Forest ......................3-6....... .333............... 12-10......... .545

Ga. Tech ............................2-6....... .250 ...............10-11......... .476

Clemson .............................2-7....... .222 ................8-14.......... .364

Yesterday's results

Maryland 78, N.C. State 73

North Carolina 73, Clemson 60

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