Terps beat Carolina from outside in

MARYLAND NOTEBOOK

Guards Blake, Dixon make up for UNC's big front line

February 27, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- For those who questioned how Maryland would handle North Carolina's sizable frontcourt, the Terrapins simply kept their guard up.

Maryland sealed off the inside with its pressurized backcourt defense and ran its offense through guards Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, creating a mismatch of poise. The tandem recorded nine assists while forcing its counterparts, Joseph Forte and Ed Cota, into a total of six turnovers.

"Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, our backcourt, are just tough people," coach Gary Williams said. "I think our toughness starts from there. We get the defense up and we have a lot of pride in our defense. We tried to put it out there today."

And don't judge the matchup solely on the final box score.

Although Cota produced 12 points and six assists, the Carolina senior point guard racked up two layups and three assists in the final six minutes, with the game already decided. Compare that to Blake, a Maryland freshman, who had five assists and just one turnover in his first 33 minutes of play.

In their previous meeting a month ago, Blake had three points and five turnovers, while Cota had 11 points and eight assists. This time, Blake kept Cota in front of him with solid position defense and negated the Tar Heels' all-time assist leader.

"I think we're good at preparing against a team we've already played," Blake said. "We don't want to lose twice to someone. We take it personally that they beat us the first time and just go out the second time and prove they're not better than us."

Dixon, meanwhile, had his troubles handling Forte (26 points), but hit his stride in the second half. He scored 18 of his 23 points, hitting six of his nine field-goal attempts, and shut out Forte for an 11-minute stretch in the second half.

The Calvert Hall graduate also played a major factor in Carolina's 17 turnovers by jumping in the passing lanes. The Tar Heels' offense has had more turnovers than its defense has forced in 24 of 28 games, and Dixon noticed why right away.

"They were lazy throwing the ball around the perimeter," said Dixon, who regained the scoring lead in Atlantic Coast Conference games (20.9). "That's their offense. That's North Carolina."

Sitting pretty

When the Tar Heels beat Maryland a month ago, the Carolina students rushed the floor. So when the Terrapins returned the favor yesterday, what did Maryland's student body do? They simply headed to the exits.

"The fact that the students didn't storm the court is a better compliment than if they would have stormed the court," center Mike Mardesich said. "It showed our program has taken some significant strides. When I was a freshman, we beat them and they stormed the court. Now we're expected to win."

Foul play

Carolina forward Kris Lang fouled out with 14: 27 remaining after colliding with Tahj Holden in the lane. Lang said Maryland assistant Billy Hahn yelled at him after the play, but Hahn said the incident never occurred.

"He said he thought I fouled him harder than I should have," Lang told the Winston-Salem Journal. "That's all that happened."

Fast breaks

Maryland has won at least 21 games for the fourth consecutive season, tying Duke for the second-longest such streak in the ACC. North Carolina (17-11) has accomplished the feat an NCAA-record 29 consecutive times, but that mark is in jeopardy this season. Andre Collins, a point guard from Crisfield High on the Eastern Shore, visited the locker room after the game. When Maryland called a 30-second timeout with 1: 47 left and a 74-62 lead, Carolina center Brendan Haywood stood about 10 feet on the court, the only Tar Heel not in the team huddle. Dixon has connected on 18 of his past 34 three-point attempts (53 percent) over the past five games. Maryland has won 19 of its past 20 games at Cole Field House and its last three against Carolina here. Mardesich and Holden were a combined 0-for-5 from the floor against Carolina a month ago.

Pub Date: 2/27/00

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