Baxter carries load for UM down stretch

Stymied by 2-3 zone, forward thrives against Wolfpack's man-to-man

Acc Tournament

March 12, 2000|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- When North Carolina State went out of its zone yesterday, Maryland's Lonny Baxter found his.

Suffocated by the Wolfpack's 2-3 zone defense most of the game, Baxter found new freedom when N.C. State switched to man-to-man, scoring seven of the Terrapins' final nine points as Maryland escaped the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals with a 64-61 victory.

"My team started calling plays for me," said Baxter, who had an active all-around game with 15 points, six rebounds, four blocks and three steals. "They were getting me the ball. You have to score in those situations."

Baxter, who averages nearly 12 shots a game, only took five in the first 37 minutes. The first-team All-ACC forward didn't have room to maneuver as State packed Damien Wilkins, Kenny Inge and Ron Kelley around him in the blocks.

But the Wolfpack opted to play man-to-man and used the 6-foot-8, 237-pound Kelley to body up against the heavier and quicker Baxter.

With State ahead 58-55, Baxter wanted the ball every half-court possession in the final three minutes and Maryland obliged. He hit two 7-foot turnaround jumpers and converted an uncontested layup when Kelley fell to the ground in an attempt to draw a charge, carrying the Terps to their first ACC championship game since 1984.

"I think Lonny Baxter kept them in the game," Wilkins said. "He kept making big plays for them. He kept increasing the lead for them. We couldn't overcome him."

Said State coach Herb Sendek: "We were trying our best not to let him score again. I think the credit goes to Maryland and getting him the ball in position where he could score. He really delivered."

There was a time when it appeared the Silver Spring native might not have been able to be there down the stretch. Jumping to grab an offensive rebound with five minutes left, Baxter was undercut by Inge and landed on his right side.

Holding his right buttock, Baxter gingerly walked to the bench. He then returned 47 seconds later to provide a painful ending for the Wolfpack.

Over the past two days, Baxter has connected on 15 of his 21 baskets and scored 39 points, becoming the leading scorer for this season's tournament.

"Lonny has just had a phenomenal year in terms of his ability to score when we need it," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "It's one thing to score some points. But as you saw today, Lonny usually gets his points when we really have to have them."

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