Dixon, Terps topple Tech

Off-the-mark guard still scores 28

bench aids Maryland, 93-80

January 07, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Juan Dixon show made another memorable stop at Cole Field House yesterday, and Maryland's remarkable junior shooting guard was not even at the top of his game. Nor was the majority of Maryland's starting lineup.

Still, Georgia Tech could do little to prevent Dixon, with an assist from the bench, from controlling the proceedings and pushing the 17th-ranked Terrapins to their 10th consecutive victory.

Maryland's 93-80 decision over the Yellow Jackets before a sellout crowd of 14,500 had several subplots.

The Terps (11-3, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) only got a combined 11 points from center Lonny Baxter and swingman Byron Mouton. That didn't stop them from turning a first half of fast breaks into a blowout by putting together a quick 18-0 run that nearly knocked out Georgia Tech and gave Maryland a halftime lead of 53-34.

Maryland came out sluggishly to start the second half, got flustered in the face of Georgia Tech's matchup zone defense and missed eight of its first nine shots, as the Yellow Jackets cut the lead to 55-49 with 15:10 left. On top of that, Baxter - who finished with a season-low seven points and reached the 1,000-point career mark - fell into serious foul trouble for the second straight game.

But the Terps were not about to lose this ACC home opener. Not with senior forward Terence Morris picking up the slack with another impressive performance, in which he scored 11 of his 19 points in the second half and finished with a season-high 13 rebounds.

And with Dixon causing problems everywhere for the Yellow Jackets (8-5, 0-2), the Terps could not lose. On a day when Dixon's dependable outside shot wasn't falling, he still recorded a season-high 28 points by killing Georgia Tech inside and at the free-throw line, where he went 11-for-11, including 10 in the second half.

Dixon also set the tone for a Maryland defense that would not allow the Yellow Jackets' three-point shooters to set up easily. The Yellow Jackets missed 15 of 24 attempts from beyond the arc.

Dixon was personally responsible for nearly half of Georgia Tech's 20 turnovers by recording a career-high eight steals. And he reduced Yellow Jackets guard Shaun Fein (nine points) to a bystander.

"Whether it's scoring or getting steals, I just try to get in there and do my part. I just try to be aggressive at both ends of the floor," said Dixon, who set a career high with 11 free throws and has converted 35 of his past 36 foul shots.

"I've got to shut my opponent down. If I'm scoring and he's scoring right with me, that's not good enough. I tried to limit [Fein's] shots, and I think I did it."

Maryland coach Gary Williams was disturbed by the Terps' hesitant play to start the second half, but he shook his head in admiration when asked about another superlative effort from Dixon, who has averaged 23 points in his past eight games.

"Juan Dixon didn't shoot it the way you'd expect him to, but he finds ways to score. Today, it was at the foul line," Williams said.

"We didn't respond really well with a 19-point lead coming out at halftime. I thought we had a few guys who thought the game might have been over. Playing for 40 minutes might be discussed, starting tomorrow."

The Terps have loved their bench since the season's first practice, and yesterday the backups were relentless.

Forward Danny Miller continued an inspired stretch of basketball by contributing 10 points, five rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes. Drew Nicholas helped a struggling Steve Blake with nine points and three assists. Mike Mardesich and Chris Wilcox backed up Baxter effectively, combining for 10 points and 11 rebounds.

With the exception of that 18-0 run - which took just over four minutes, featured five points by Dixon, a tremendous jam by Wilcox, a slew of Georgia Tech turnovers and pushed Maryland to a 37-15 lead with 8:15 left in the first half - the Terps were spotty. But Georgia Tech was outclassed.

"Maybe I extended our pressure too much in the first half, but [the Terps] are just a good ballclub," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "They get the ball up and look deep and they hurt us. I enjoy watching them play. Maryland just executes so well."

The Terps, who forced turnovers, ran in transition and attacked the offensive boards to counter the shot-blocking presence of center Alvin Jones (15 points, 14 rebounds, eight blocks) in the first half, generally were solid when it came to contesting Georgia Tech's eager outside shooters.

But Georgia Tech made a game of it after halftime, opening with a 15-2 run to cut Maryland's lead to 55-49 nearly five minutes into the half. Guard Tony Akins (team-high 20 points) got the Yellow Jackets going, then kept them hanging around.

Morris scored five straight points to push the Terps in front, 64-53, eight minutes into the second half. That was a preview for Dixon, who made four free throws and buried a three-pointer from the left corner to spark an 11-6 run that made it 75-61 with 8:11 left.

After that, Morris, Miller and Dixon combined to make seven of eight foul shots to put away Georgia Tech. In all, Maryland sank a season-high 83.9 percent (26 of 31).

The Terps, who began last year's ACC season with an 0-3 record, will go for a 3-0 league start against visiting North Carolina on Wednesday night.

"It feels a lot better than being 0-3 last year," Nicholas said. "But it's still a long ACC season and we have to keep it going. Things can slide just as easily as they rise."

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