Dixon, Terps do number on Yellow Jackets

Sophomore guard has 33 points, 7 assists as Maryland rolls, 92-70

February 17, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Juan Dixon left a trail of defenders in his 156-pound wake last night.

T. J. Vines fouled out trying to mark Dixon in the half court. Shaun Fein turned an ankle trying to keep up with him in transition. Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins eyed Dixon with fear and admiration, as he hollered, "There he goes!" on a runner the Maryland guard flipped in with eight minutes left.

Dixon, the sophomore guard from Calvert Hall who has grown from relative obscurity to the hottest player in the Atlantic Coast Conference in a month, had career highs of 33 points and seven assists, as the No. 22 Terps pounded the Yellow Jackets, 92-70, before 14,500 at Cole Field House and a national television audience.

"The first thing he asked me as we were waiting to be interviewed on TV [ESPN], was how many rebounds he had," Terps coach Gary Williams said. "He's a competitor, and he was upset at the stat guy. That's pretty interesting. The guy gets 33, and the first thing he wants to know is his steals and rebounds. That's pretty typical of Juan."

With eight minutes remaining in the first half, it was Dixon 18, Georgia Tech 15. Ernie Graham was in the house, and the fellow Baltimorean had to wonder if his 22-year-old Maryland single-game scoring record, 44 points, was in jeopardy.

Freshman Steve Blake drew his second foul six seconds later, and Dixon moved over to the point, where he was more interested in distributing the ball and defending. Even after a lengthy stint there, the co-ACC Player of the Week never cooled off and became the first Maryland player since Joe Smith in 1994-95 to have three 30-point games in a season.

Dixon left to appreciative applause with 2: 48 left.

Maryland's only home game in a 20-day span saw the Terps (18-7, 7-4 ACC) post their fifth straight victory in the league and win for the seventh time in eight ACC games since a one-point loss at Georgia Tech on Jan. 15. That was the night Dixon began a scoring binge that has made him the leading scorer in conference games, with a 21.7 average.

"That Dixon is something else," Cremins said. "He was sensational."

Dixon had a career-high 31 in Atlanta, but at the end, he was blanketed and unable to get off a shot. He got serious paybacks this time, making seven of his first eight shots and finished 12-for-17 from the floor.

The two times the 6-foot-3 Dixon beat the shot clock displayed the variety in his game, as he tossed a baby hook over 6-11 Alvin Jones in the first half while Maryland was breaking the game open with a 10-0 run. With 3: 10 left, the Terps enjoyed a 20-point lead when Dixon let fly with the last of his four three-pointers.

When was the last time his stroke felt that good?

"High school," Dixon said, recalling a game when he bested a current teammate. "Anacostia, against Lonny [Baxter]. I had 47 points. Everything I shot went in."

With the exception of a hasty three in transition in the sixth minute, that was the case in the first 12 minutes last night. Dixon took advantage of screens set by his teammates, and improvised on his own.

"Juan Dixon works hard when he's on the court," Williams said. "He can shoot the ball when he gets his looks. He's doing a really good job of getting open, and our guys are really looking for him at the right times."

Maryland's frontcourt was outplayed in the loss at Georgia Tech, but it had the edge this time, despite Terence Morris and Baxter being restricted to 19 and 29 minutes, respectively, by foul trouble. Morris had 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, and Baxter had 13 points and 12 rebounds, and fouled out Jones, who was limited to 22 minutes.

Tahj Holden and LaRon Cephas took up the slack, as they combined for 29 minutes and 13 points.

"Some guys came off the bench and did a terrific job," Williams said. "That's a good sign this time of year."

Seventeen of Maryland's 18 baskets were assisted in the first half, when Georgia Tech (11-13, 3-8) committed 13 of its 21 turnovers.

Maryland never trailed after the third minute, as that initial 10-0 run extended its lead to 29-15 with 8: 01 left in the half. A Tony Akins three-pointer stopped the bleeding for Georgia Tech, but the Terps came right back and pushed the difference to 40-20 with 4: 29 left.

The Terps could have used some of last night's bounces Sunday, when they dropped a non-conference game at Temple. Morris had a three-pointer from the top of the key that soared high off the back of the rim and dropped in. When Baxter tried to dunk on Jones, he was fouled, but the ball found rim and backboard before it got net.

Georgia Tech trimmed its halftime deficit to 42-30. It was 49-39 heading into the last 16 minutes, but then Blake nailed a three from the top of the key, and Dixon commandeered a 10-0 run. He pump-faked Vines and swished a three from the left corner, scored over Tony Akins in the lane and pushed the ball upcourt as Baxter slammed in transition.

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