Terps show they rate, stop Wake

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

Morris, Baxter also rise

Physical game `was all-out war'

College Basketball

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

COLLEGE PARK -- The Maryland Terrapins had heard the pre-game talk. Ever since getting pushed around by the likes of Illinois and Dayton in early-season losses, the nagging perception was the Terps would back down from an opponent that liked to play rough.

The 12th-ranked Terrapins answered the critics last night, before a sellout crowd at steamy Cole Field House, in a game they simply had to win.

And when their scrum-like battle was done with No. 10 Wake Forest, the Terps owned an 81-71 victory that gave them their first win over a ranked opponent this season, and re-established their place in the nasty Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Terps (13-4, 4-1) won for the 12th time in 13 attempts and beat a Top 10 team at home for the first time in two years, primarily because they got superb efforts from their star trio of junior guard Juan Dixon, junior center Lonny Baxter and senior forward Terence Morris.

Dixon scored a season-high 30 points, which included a 10-for-10 showing at the free-throw line. He added four steals and five rebounds. Morris added 20 points and six rebounds. Baxter scored 18 points and recorded 15 rebounds, the most by a Maryland player this year. Eight of Baxter's rebounds came at the offensive end.

Forward Josh Howard led Wake Forest with a career-high 24 points. Darius Songalia added 16 points and 11 rebounds, before fouling out with 3:45 left.

But Maryland will remember this victory for the way it was earned -- against a bigger Wake Forest team with equal depth and a mean streak to boot.

The bodies hit the floor early and often. The game featured 49 fouls, including four technicals. At night's end, the Terps had lost reserve Chris Wilcox to fouls, while Baxter and Morris finished with four each. Howard and backup Wake center Rafael Vidaurreta also finished with four fouls.

"I'm not sure we could have won that game in November or early December," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "That was a game we needed, because it proved we could play with a physical team that rebounds well and would not give up anything easy on the offensive end.

"I told our guys I was proud of the way we went to war tonight. It was strong out there. That was a great college basketball game."

Said Morris: "It was all-out war. [Wake Forest] battled us, we battled back. The refs let us get away with a lot of physical play. We were all hungry tonight. We know what we are capable of doing."

The Terps also got an extra dose of toughness with the return of 6-foot-10 sophomore forward Tahj Holden, who missed nine games with a fractured bone in his left foot and made an immediate impact upon his entrance with 1:22 left in the first half.

Holden drew a foul by Broderick Hicks -- who committed a technical violation by shoving Holden -- then made a free throw. Seconds later, Holden drew another foul and made two free shots. He finished with three points, but his physical play against the likes of Songalia and center Josh Shoemaker was vital.

"We needed one more physical presence in there. I wanted to do it," said Holden, who turned 20 yesterday and had practiced for two days before playing. "We needed someone to just knock guys 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."

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. Maryland crashed the boards impressively all night, out-rebounding Wake, 47-35. The Terps collected 24 offensive rebounds.

The Deacons (13-3, 2-3), who were paced by Howard early and late, spent much of the first half trying to stay within 10 points of the Terps, who stretched their biggest lead to 58-45 with 13:29 left on a pair of free throws by Dixon.

Wake Forest eventually 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.

Dixon, who has averaged 23.2 points in his last 11 games, was brilliant again. He scored 17 points in the second half, when the Terps put away the Deacons by making their last six foul shots.

"We lost some games early in the year. We lost a lot of respect early in the year," Dixon said. "We left the locker room wanting it bad.""[Dixon] has got great energy," said Williams, who got a first-half technical as did Wake Forest coach Dave Odom. "I think Juan could play for 40 minutes. He just keeps going."

The Terps turned in a top-notch defensive effort for the second straight ACC game. Besides manning the boards, they held the Deacons to just two three-pointers in 11 attempts.

They also silenced guard Robert O'Kelley, a Maryland killer for years. O'Kelley finished with six points. And super-sub Craig Dawson, the guard who entered the game leading Wake Forest in scoring, went scoreless in 18 minutes.

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