Terps show they rate, stop Wake

Dixon's 30 points lift Maryland to first win over ranked foe, 81-71

Morris, Baxter also rise

Fouls, technicals fill physical contest College Basketball

January 18, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- The Maryland Terrapins used outstanding efforts from their three preseason All-America players to win a crucial Atlantic Coast Conference battle last night over Wake Forest, 81-71, before a sellout crowd at Cole Field House.

By beating No. 10 Wake Forest, the 12th-ranked Terps (13-4, 4-1) earned their first victory over a ranked team this season.

In a physical contest riddled with personal and technical fouls, Maryland turned to its power trio of guard Juan Dixon, forward Terence Morris and center Lonny Baxter, and got the results it expected.

Dixon scored a season-high 30 points, which included a 10-for-10 showing at the free-throw line. Morris added 20 points and six rebounds. Baxter scored 18 points and recorded a game-high 15 rebounds.

Forward Josh Howard led Wake Forest (13-3, 2-3) with 24 points. Darius Songalia added 16 points and 11 rebounds.

"We had to beat a team that was ranked, no doubt about it," Terps coach Gary Williams said. "We might as well have done it tonight. Obviously, winning at home is really big."

The Terps took a 41-33 lead at halftime, then used the tremendous offensive game of Dixon and the hard-hat work inside from Morris and Baxter to keep Wake Forest at bay.

The Deacons, who were paced by Howard early and late, spent much of the first half trying to stay within 10 points of the Terps. Wake Forest finally crept to within 71-64 on two free throws by Songalia with 5:08 left. But the Demon Deacons could not sustain it, as Songalia committed a traveling violation, then fouled out with 3:45 to go.

Morris, who squared off gamely with Songalia all night, re-asserted himself with a slam, then sank two free throws after Songalia's final foul to push the Terps in front 75-65.

The first half featured enough physical play to produce 24 personal fouls, lots of emotion that translated into three technical fouls -- two on Wake Forest -- and the return of Terps sophomore Tahj Holden, who entered the contest late in the first half after missing nine games with a fractured bone in his left foot.

"We needed one more physical presence in there," Holden said of his return. "We needed someone to just knock people down, knock them around. When I wasn't in there, I didn't see a lot of that. I figured I might as well be the one to do it."

Williams looked at it a different way.

"I thought I was going to put him for a minute at the end of the half, and spot him. He battled some pretty tough people without being in great physical condition. Today is his birthday," Williams said of the sophomore. "That was my present, playing him in the second half."

Maryland, on the strength of double-figure scoring from Dixon, Baxter and Morris, took a 41-33 halftime lead. Howard's 16 first-half points kept the Demon Deacons in contention.

Wake Forest jumped on the Terps quickly, prompting Williams to call a timeout barely two minutes into the contest after the Demon Deacons scored the game's first six points. Howard sparked the run with a pair of free throws and a wide-open, 18-foot baseline jumper.

It didn't take long for Maryland to awaken after the Terps missed their first five shots.

Baxter broke the scoreless drought with a tough bank shot. That sent the Terps on a 10-0 run. Dixon fueled it with a three-pointer from the wing. Morris followed that with his first three of the night to give the Terps their first lead at 8-6. Dixon finished the spurt with a 15-footer four minutes into the game.

"I just try to go out there and have fun," Dixon said. "I love this game. Not many players get a chance to play in a game like this, in front of a crowd like that.

"We lost some big games early in the year. We lost a lot of respect early in the year. I think we did a great job of playing defense, rebounding and playing hard for 40 minutes. We left the locker room wanting it bad."

Wake Forest evened the score at 10 with 13:50 to go, and by the time Byron Mouton gave Maryland a 14-13 lead with 12:30 left, emotions began to boil over. First, Demon Deacons coach Dave Odom drew a technical, after he protested a traveling call on guard Erwin Murray by banging his hand on the scorer's table.

That allowed Dixon (13 first-half points) to sink two free throws to extend Maryland's lead to 16-13. Morris, off an assist from Drew Nicholas, dunked to make it 18-13. The Demon Deacons, behind a pair of jumpers by Howard, responded with eight unanswered points.

In the middle of that run, freshman forward Chris Wilcox drew back-to-back fouls. The last, his third of the night after grabbing Songalia, prompted Williams to scream enough to pick up a technical.

After falling behind 21-18, the Terps went on a 13-0 run by making six of eight shots. Dixon turned two steals into layups during that spurt, which also featured four points from Baxter and a short jumper and three-pointer from Morris.

Wake Forest cut into Maryland's 31-21 lead by going to the foul line repeatedly. Songalia and Howard shot a combined 5-for-7 at the line to pull the Deacons to within 34-28 with 2:17 left.

With Maryland leading 36-30, Holden entered the game for the first time since breaking his foot the day after Maryland's Dec. 6 home opener against Stony Brook. He immediately had an impact on the game.

Holden drew a foul from guard Broderick Hicks, then got pushed by Hicks, who drew a techical foul. Dixon made two free throws, Holden missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Holden quickly drew another foul and converted one of two to push Maryland in front 39-30.

Holden's two free throws then gave the Terps their 41-33 halftime lead.

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