Terps log rare win at W. Forest

Veterans, rookies alike step up to overcome Baxter foul woes, 73-67

UM lost there in '98, '99

Holden foul shots help extend ACC run to 8-1

February 20, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Were they good, or charmed?

Both.

The Maryland basketball team withstood some serious foul trouble and a Wake Forest comeback yesterday, as the Terps earned a 73-67 victory at Lawrence Joel Coliseum. Their veterans and rookies alike produced clutch plays, while the Demon Deacons couldn't pry a lid off the basket in the final minute.

"We had a lot going against us," sophomore guard Juan Dixon said, after No. 22 Maryland (19-7, 8-4) won here for the first time since 1997. The Terps' third straight road win in the Atlantic Coast Conference and eighth victory in their last nine league games gave them sole possession of second place. It was a testament to the team's grit.

Center Lonny Baxter fouled out in a frustrating 21 minutes. Maryland was out-rebounded 42-31 and outscored at the free-throw line 23-10. Wake Forest (14-12, 5-8) did not have a basket in the final eight minutes, however, and its most glaring failures came on a last-minute possession when it could have tied, or gone ahead.

The Terps went into the final 13 minutes with a 58-46 lead, but then their three-point well dried up and the Demon Deacons roared back to within 68-66. With a minute left, Darius Songaila, who had game highs of 22 points and 12 rebounds, missed on a drive. Rafael Vidaurreta blew an open putback, but Songaila won the rebound. His follow was contested, but Tahj Holden finally got that rebound and was fouled.

On Maryland's previous possession, Terence Morris had missed the front end of a one-and-one. A few minutes earlier, deadeye Dixon had done the same. Holden? It was Wake Forest's 10th team foul, so he had the benefit of two attempts, and the freshman calmly sank both. The Demon Deacons were too demoralized to execute anymore.

"I had to forget the noise, think that it was an empty gym," Holden said. "I like being in that situation."

Actually, this was a setting in which Maryland fell asleep the last two years. Afternoon games in an arena where the crowd is maybe two-thirds of the announced attendance of 12,415 had resulted in desultory losses for the Terps in 1998 and '99, but the new blood has only good memories of the place.

Holden played 18 minutes. Drew Nicholas had two big three-pointers in the first half, and contributed to another Maryland nightmare for Robert O'Kelley, the Wake Forest leading scorer who had his third 1-for-9 shooting game against the Terps in two seasons. The point man in that effort, and Maryland's offense, was Steve Blake, who had nine assists, nine points and three steals.

"Yesterday, somebody said `remember last year down there?' " Nicholas said. "Somebody else said `forget about last year.' Three straight [ACC wins] on the road. This is another big confidence-builder."

The conclusion of halves has not been kind to Maryland recently, but Dixon twice symbolized the Terps' magic touch yesterday.

Morris made three of four free throws in the last 19 seconds, and after the third, Dixon stole a pass and giggled away the final seconds. It wasn't even his best half-ender, as he dropped in a 25-footer over Josh Howard from the top of the key as the buzzer sounded to end the first 20 minutes.

"It was up there a long time," said Dixon, who had 20 points. "He [Howard] came up in my face, and I didn't see it go down."

The shot gave Maryland a 40-33 halftime lead, and stunned Wake Forest.

"Great players make great plays at great moments," Demon Deacons coach Dave Odom said.

Dixon said Blake made a great play call, which got a laugh from coach Gary Williams.

"We ran a play, but he wound up 25 feet from the basket," Williams said. "Yeah, that's a play. We worked on that yesterday in practice."

Everything went the way Williams drew it up over a 13-minute stretch that spanned halftime.

Every starter except Blake was whistled for two fouls in the first 13 minutes, and Wake Forest owned the paint as it sped to a 28-21 lead with 5: 57 left in the first half. The Terps finished the half with a 19-5 run, however, and they extended their lead even after Baxter drew his third and fourth fouls two minutes into the second half.

Nearly half of Maryland's points in that 13-minute stretch came on three-pointers. Danny Miller kicked out to Morris on the left wing for that 58-46 lead with 13: 01 left, but then the Terps went more than six minutes without a point. Blake ended the drought on a short jumper from the baseline that bounced tantalizingly on the rim with 6: 55 left.

Less than a minute later, Baxter was charged with his fifth foul, on a play that was the evil twin to the pivotal charge he drew in a Feb. 6 win over N.C. State. Baxter was stationed in the lane for at least two dribbles when Songaila drove in from the left side and flattened him. Instead of calling the charge, Zelton Steed whistled a blocking foul, and Baxter was done.

"I never moved the whole possession," Baxter said.

Baxter and Morris combined for only eight baskets inside the three-point line, but the last was crucial.

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