With huge upset, young Terps come of age

February 10, 2000|By Ken Rosenthal

DURHAM, N.C. -- Lonny Baxter skipped off the court, holding one finger to his lips to silence the Cameron Crazies. Juan Dixon embraced coach Gary Williams near center court. And Maryland fans -- yes, Maryland fans -- stormed the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium, chanting, "Gary! Gary!"

Maryland 98, Duke 87.

Duke's 31-game winning streak in ACC regular-season play? Gone.

Duke's 46-game winning streak at Cameron? History.

It was a night they will talk about forever in College Park, a night when a young team matured all at once, a night for Williams to exorcise his demons against Mike Krzyzewski, against whom he was 2-20 head-to-head in the ACC, and 0-for-his career at Cameron.

Considering the circumstances -- Duke's streaks, its No. 3 ranking, its dominance of the series -- the victory was possibly the most significant road triumph of Williams' 11-year tenure at Maryland. The Terps rallied from a 22-point deficit at North Carolina four years ago, but the Tar Heels were No. 11 at the time.

Where to begin?

There is only place -- inside the heart of Dixon.

Only a skinny sophomore, he must now be considered one of the gutsiest, savviest kids ever to come out of Baltimore, a city that has produced a long, distinguished line of such players.

Dixon scored a career-high 31 points, 19 in the second half, eight straight after Duke took a 79-76 lead with 6: 42 left. He made 14 of 19 shots, grabbed five rebounds and contributed three steals, then drew lavish praise from Krzyzewski.

"He was fabulous," Krzyzewski said. "Not good or really good -- fabulous. That was the best performance against us this year by an individual. So efficient. He's beautiful to watch, really. You have to give credit when a kid plays great like that."

Dixon seemingly played at his own rhythm, creating his own shots, even running the point effectively when needed. But to call him the only hero on this night would be an injustice. Duke kept coming, with Shane Battier, with Chris Carrawell, with Carlos Boozer. But Maryland -- a team that wilted at Cameron last season with Steve Francis -- never blinked.

Baxter barely contributed down the stretch after getting his fourth foul with 8: 14 left, but he finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Terence Morris shot 7-for-22 and was beaten repeatedly by Battier on the defensive end, but he hit two huge three-pointers to trigger Maryland's final, breathtaking 15-4 run.

Danny Miller hit four three-pointers, matching his career-high with 16 points. Blake's cooler head prevailed in the battle of freshman point guards with Jason Williams. Freshman Tahj Holden helped cool off Battier (28 points, six three-pointers) in the first half.

The victory kept Maryland (17-6, 6-4) tied with North Carolina for second place in the ACC, and practically ensured a place for the Terps in the NCAA tournament. Best of all, it signaled that a team with no seniors in its rotation might be coming together at the right time.

"The biggest thing for us is that we wanted to prove we could play. We could come in here -- as tough a place as there is to play -- and play well," Williams said. "I want the young guys to believe that throughout their careers at Maryland. It's a big thing for us long-term."

Funny how these things work out, how Williams always seems to pull off a stunner when it's least expected. Virtually all of the Maryland coaches wore black suits, as if headed to their annual funeral at Cameron. The Blue Devil mascot paraded around with the words, "Not even a tent game," scrawled on a piece of athletic tape across his forehead. It was the ultimate insult -- the Duke students hadn't even slept out for tickets to the game.

The scene was quite a contrast from last season's electric showdown, when Francis, Laron Profit and Co. were shouted back to College Park. Most of the local media attended the North Carolina-North Carolina State game in Raleigh. Little did they know that they would miss one of the best regular-season games of this or any season.

Right from the start, the Terps made it clear that this night would be different. In past seasons, they might have collapsed after Battier hit back-to-back threes to give Duke a 33-26 lead. But Williams put Holden on Battier, and Maryland went on a 11-0 run to take the lead.

If not for a late turnover by Morris, the Terps might have led by six points at halftime instead of two, but Williams wasn't exactly in a position to complain. The Terps had forced 12 turnovers. And they led 47-45 even though they had allowed Duke to shoot 58.1 percent.

Then came the second half, the ultimate uphill climb in a building where Duke had not lost in more than three years. Twice, Battier appeared to hit devastating threes, but the Terps were almost shockingly resilient. Carrawell delivered a vicious block on a shot by Miller, but Miller recovered the ball. Dixon blocked out Carrawell, a player 60 pounds heavier, for another put-back.

The crowd kept chanting, "Our house! Our house!" but in the final minute the Duke players actually found themselves exhorting the fans. Nate James screamed, "Let's go!" at the student section before one foul shot. Battier waved his arms for the crowd to rise before another. With 15.5 seconds left and the Blue Devils trailing by 10 points, the crowd chanted, "Let's Go Duke!" It wasn't a plea, it was a concession, a tribute to all the streaks that were ending.

Maryland 98, Duke 87.

This one will be remembered for a long, long time.

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