WASHINGTON - Maryland had a tenuous six-point lead with just under seven minutes left, when Byron Mouton reminded everyone that basketball is just a game. After he made a steal in front of the George Washington bench, Mouton's momentum took him atop the scorer's table, where he took an impromptu stroll.
"I would have been surprised if anyone else had done that," Terps coach Gary Williams said. "Instead, you say `that's just Byron.' "
When Mouton left Tulane and transferred to Maryland in the summer of 1999, Williams knew that the Terps were getting a creative, athletic slasher. When he finally became eligible and began his junior season with a forward flip at Midnight Madness, Maryland fans discovered that Mouton has an effervescent personality that can liven up a team that has some laid-back stars.
"I don't consider myself as being in a leadership role," Mouton said. "My whole purpose is to get these guys pumped up, give the team a spark. ... To me, I'm just having fun, I'm at a carnival. Some guys, this can get old, but I never get tired of basketball. Every time I step on the court, I'm having fun."
Mouton's insertion in the starting lineup meant more enjoyment for Maryland, as he replaced Danny Miller at small forward in a semifinal rout of Michigan at the BB&T Classic. He had a quiet 1-for-4 shooting performance against the Wolverines, but busted loose in a 71-63 conquest of the Colonials with a season-high 17 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Mouton also logged a team-high 31 minutes. He made eight of his 12 shots, and his lone three-pointer, off the glass from deep on the right side, came with just five seconds left in the first half, doubling the Terps' lead from three to six.
Mouton and teammate Juan Dixon were joined on the all-tournament team by Michigan's Bernard Robinson, St. John's Anthony Glover and George Washington's SirValiant Brown. The "Moos" of the Maryland fans turned to boos when Brown was announced as the MVP, but Mouton remained giddy.
Brown was a repeat MVP, but he followed his record 32-point explosion against St. John's with 18 against Maryland on 7-for-16 shooting. Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas took turns shutting down Brown in the first half, when he was 1-for-7 from the field.
"We did not want to let him [Brown] get too many touches in the first half," Williams said. "We wanted to make other players handle the ball. You need help against him, and wherever he went, we knew where he was."
Consolation for St. John's
Former GW coach Mike Jarvis salvaged at least one win from his return to the tournament, as his St. John's team broke open a one-point lead with six minutes left and stopped Michigan, 97-83, in the consolation game. Glover had 27 points for No. 19 St. John's (4-2).
"If I said that I were pleased that we're going out of here with one victory and one loss, I'd be lying," said Jarvis, who lost to his former program in the semifinals. "We'll use it in a very positive way and eventually we'll thank George Washington for a lot of our success."
Reeling Michigan (2-4) has to go to No. 1 Duke Saturday. ... Mouton's career high remains the 31 he had against Southern Mississippi during his freshman year at Tulane. ... Brown scored 50 points over the weekend, coming within a point of the tournament two-game scoring record set by Maryland's Keith Booth in 1996. ... The Terps held GW to a season-low 63 points, nearly 28 below its average for its first six games. ... Next year's tournament will have Connecticut and Princeton.