Silent Cameron music to Terps' ears

College Park is wild about its groovin' team

February 11, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- On Maryland's previous get-away flight from Tobacco Road, after a soft loss at North Carolina, an infuriated coach Gary Williams told a young Terps basketball team to remove the headphones and turn off the portable CD players.

If it were in his power late Wednesday night, the coach would have hired Jennifer Lopez and Puff Daddy to entertain Juan Dixon and company on the charter home after Maryland's 98-87 victory at No. 3 Duke. It may be the most significant win recorded by any of the 318 Division I teams in college basketball this season.

The joyous noise on that flight -- and the raucous celebration that unfolded on campus -- was not as sweet as the sound of silence that emanated from Cameron Indoor Stadium. This is one instance when you can buy Dick Vitale's hyperbole. It really is one of the nation's toughest environments on a visiting team.

After the Terps won at Duke for the first time with Williams on the sideline, the anarchy spread through the Maryland campus. Students tore down the football goal post at the north end of Byrd Stadium and paraded it to a spontaneous bonfire on Fraternity Row.

Portions of U.S. 1 were closed for what the Diamondback, the student newspaper, headlined as a "riot on mall" by a mob of students.

"We had heard reports on the bus that it was pretty wild on campus," Williams said. "We pull in University Boulevard, and at the guardhouse, they stop us, [say] `We've got to get some police behind Cole Field House.' We pull up, and there's like 30 students. It's 1: 30. I told the cop, `Look, we won the game, they're not going to try to hurt us.' They had their riot gear off by then.

"They [students] borrowed the goal posts. That was good. I like that. I didn't think about it, but coming out of the dorms here, walking to Route 1, you just happen to pass by the football field. When you walk across campus, that's the way you come. I guess they saw it there and said, `Why not?'

"It's great. It's the way it should be. College students should get excited about a game like that."

No. 23 Maryland used a splendid team effort to post its fourth straight victory and sixth in seven games, but that is a humble run compared to what the Blue Devils had done lately.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski's team had the longest winning streak in the nation -- 18 games. The Duke dynasty had set an Atlantic Coast Conference record with 31 straight regular-season wins, and the 46 consecutive victories at Cameron was another conference mark. Yes, Arizona went into Maples Pavilion and beat Stanford last month, and Seton Hall stopped Syracuse at the Carrier Dome on Tuesday, but neither have the cache of Cameron.

Cool, calm and sleepless

The Terps had their first day off in a week yesterday, and Williams said his players deserved a rest. He showed up for work without sleep, as some ESPN viewing and a John Grisham novel couldn't stop Williams' gears from turning on one of the defining games of the college season.

An overlooked element in the win was that Williams kept his cool against Duke.

Two years ago here, he was ejected in the first half of an embarrassing 27-point whipping administered by the Blue Devils. Williams still feels he was wronged that night, but Wednesday he was nonetheless as serene as he's been in an ACC game recently. It was Krzyzewski who came on the court during a break to argue a call.

"I thought our team was in a really good mental frame," Williams said. "I didn't think they needed any unnecessary motivation from me, to get ready to play, or play better. There was no time in the game where I thought we should be playing better than we were, in terms of running the offense, in terms of trying to play defense."

After the primal screams that followed Sunday's inspired climb out of a 17-point hole to beat N.C. State, Maryland channeled its emotion into an extremely focused offensive effort.

Besides showing that the ACC is not a one-team league, the Duke win reinforced the notion that the Terps are no longer a one-trick pony, reliant on their press to produce points. The Terps' offense has been criticized in the past for being simplistic, but because this team hasn't mastered full-court pressure, it has been forced to become more efficient in the half court.

Williams faulted his team after a Jan. 26 loss at North Carolina -- the one that led to a quiet charter flight to Florida State -- but since then the ball has been funneled into Lonny Baxter. He saw nearly every double team coming in Durham, and his six assists were the best indicator of the extra pass and motion that allowed Maryland to make 53.9 percent of its shots.

That's the best mark against Duke since Nov. 28, 1998, when Cincinnati handed the Blue Devils their only regular-season loss of last season.

With Terence Morris' ACC field-goal percentage down to .392 at the half, Maryland went to a wrinkle it installed for Duke. Baxter got the ball on the right wing, then handed off to Morris, who used him as a screen for his first three-pointer.

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