Surging Terps revel in revival

After Duke upset, `people are talking about Final 4 again'

College Basketball

March 01, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Byron Mouton transfered from Tulane to Maryland, craving the chance to experience playing basketball in the Atlantic Coast Conference on nights like this.

Three hours after the 16th-ranked Terps beat No. 2 Duke, 91-80, with their most inspired effort of a wild season at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Mouton stepped off the team bus behind Cole Field House and surveyed several hundred cheering fans.

Mouton later learned of the party that had consumed the campus after Tuesday's huge victory. Police estimated 5,000 people had gathered in a field along Fraternity Row, where several small fires and two larger bonfires had been set. The festivities temporarily shut down a section of Route 1.

"I had always heard about Duke and Carolina and their traditions. Everybody around here hates Duke," said Mouton, who sat out last year and only practiced with the Terps after moving from his home state of Louisiana.

"The campus was crazy [yesterday]. I heard some soccer goals got torn down," he added. "Everybody was talking about the Duke game. Last year was fun, but I didn't experience anything like this. I wasn't expecting to have this type of season."

Maryland's roller-coaster ride of a season hit a new high point.

Just two weeks removed from a dangerous 1-5 dip, the Terps (19-9, 9-6) punctuated a four-game winning streak by beating a ranked team for the third time during that stretch. They handed Duke (25-4, 12-3) only its fifth loss in its past 63 ACC games. They gave coach Gary Williams only his fifth win over the Blue Devils in 27 tries. He is 3-22 when coaching against Mike Krzyzewski.

Maryland can clinch third place in the ACC and possibly move back into the top 10 with a victory on Saturday at Cole Field House against No. 7 Virginia in the regular-season finale.

An eighth straight NCAA tournament invitation is in the bag. Suddenly, it's reasonable to envision Maryland gaining a seed as high as No. 3 on Selection Sunday in 10 days. Suddenly, those lofty preseason Final Four hopes do not look far-fetched.

Junior guard Juan Dixon, who has become the undisputed go-to guy for the resurgent Terps, led them once again in Durham with a team-high 28 points and five steals. Double doubles by center Lonny Baxter (15 points, 10 rebounds), forward Terence Morris (13 points, 12 rebounds) and point guard Steve Blake (11 points, 11 assists) figured prominently in Maryland's second consecutive takedown of Duke on the road.

Then there was Mouton, (eight points, grabbed seven rebounds), who combined with Danny Miller to shut down Duke swingman Mike Dunleavy (six points on 3-for-8 shooting), and fueled a game-ending run during which Maryland scored 40 of the evening's final 60 points to erase a 60-51 Duke lead with 15:20 left.

Mouton helped the Terps nail down the win by producing a huge assist on a Blake layup, which gave Maryland an 82-75 lead with 1:02 left. Since losing his starting job for one game, Mouton has responded by averaging 9.1 points and 4.5 rebounds in four outings.

"We just want to win a national championship and we just want to leave everything on the floor," Mouton said. "We don't just have the players on paper. We have the players to win a championship. Now people are talking about the Final Four again. Now everybody is calling Coach Williams a god. I guess everybody is gassing up their cars and ready to go."

"We're just trying to ride it the rest of the way," Williams said. "Having gone through the things we've gone through -- I know it sounds screwy -- we might have a better team the rest of the way. Only time will tell."

Maryland's determination on Tuesday was a sight to behold. Williams said he never addressed the shocking overtime loss to Duke on Jan. 27 in preparation for the rematch. Instead, he showed the team the tape of last year's 98-87 win in Durham.

The Terps reveled in the hostile environment. When the team arrived two hours before tip-off, they walked off the bus and saw a sign that read, "Soft." Next up were the Cameron Crazies and their placards and taunts, which Maryland muted after absorbing a 25-point Duke barrage in the final five minutes of the first half. That turned a 36-27 Terps lead into a 50-43 Blue Devils advantage at the break.

Even Williams and Krzyzewski mixed it up with a brief, face-to-face shouting match ("Just two guys competing," said Williams) near midcourt, as the teams headed to their locker rooms at the half.

The bottom line was Duke fell apart on its floor -- on Senior Night, no less -- and the Blue Devils' title hopes may have taken a nosedive with the loss of center Carlos Boozer, who will miss at least two weeks with a right foot fracture. Boozer's absence left Duke with no inside presence, forcing the Blue Devils to launch 19 three-point shots in the second half. They converted only three, partly due to poor shot selection.

Senior Shane Battier was heroic, scoring 31 points. But like every other player on Duke's razor-thin squad, he ran out of gas. Battier eventually fouled out with 20 seconds left, while senior forward Nate James played a foul game. He missed eight of nine shots and committed four turnovers.

As Duke staggers, Maryland's revival is in full bloom.

"We're a tough bunch of guys to come back from what we did," Williams said. "I've seen teams not come back that had more talent than this team. I'm really proud of them."

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