Unselfish Terps pass out compliments

MARYLAND NOTEBOOK

Making extra pass seen as key to hot shooting

Nicholas is stepping up

Final Four

March 27, 2001|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The offensive numbers that stood out most in Saturday's 87-73 West Regional win over Stanford may have been the Terps' impressive shooting percentages.

Hitting 58.2 percent from the field and a whopping 69.2 percent from the three-point line says plenty, but Maryland coach Gary Williams will tell you a good pass often comes first.

The Terps led the Atlantic Coast Conference in assists during the regular season, averaging 19.5 per game and, with 62 in four games, no team in the country has had more in the NCAA tournament.

Point guard Steve Blake, who has a school-record 243 assists this season, is the obvious contributor in the area, but there are others.

"Our big people can pass. Guys like Terence Morris and Tahj Holden are great passers and Chris Wilcox is a good passer, too. That might separate us from some other teams," said Williams.

Blake was quick to point out center Lonny Baxter's overwhelming presence inside helping trigger everyone else's offensive games.

"Things do start with Lonny. If you throw the ball inside to him, from there, he kicks it out to Juan [Dixon], myself and the other guys and things are just moving smoothly right now," said Blake.

"We've worked hard to be better shooters throughout the season and right now we're just shooting the ball really well and have the confidence to take the shots."

Nicholas: Points by minute

Somewhat lost in the Terps' run to the Final Four has been the timely play of backup point guard Drew Nicholas, who has made the most of his minutes and, in particular, made the end of the first half in their past two wins his very own showcase.

In Saturday's win over Stanford, the Terps took control with a 15-6 run that gave them a 42-32 lead at intermission.

Nicholas converted a tough three-point play, added a layup and then penetrated on the last possession before kicking it out to Holden for a three-pointer at the buzzer that had the Terps flying to the locker room.

"Coming into the tournament, the one thing I really wanted to do was be aggressive because when I'm not, that's when I kind of drift in and out of games," said Nicholas, who finished with six points and three assists in 17 minutes against Stanford. "I try to go in there and bring a spark defensively and then try to put as many points on the board as I can to help us out."

After scoring just one point in a four-game stretch in mid-February, Nicholas broke out with a 16-point, 10-assist effort in the Terps' 102-67 win against Virginia in their regular-season finale on March 3.

Return of Jason, part IV, looms

A fourth encounter against Duke translates into another one-on-one confrontation between Blake and Duke point guard Jason Williams.

Nobody has played the Duke standout tougher this season than the 6-foot-3 Blake, who has size and familiarity on his side.

So why does Blake seem to fare better than most?

"I really don't know. I don't watch how the other guys play him to see what they do. I just kind of make my own opinions and try to play my own style of defense and hopefully that works," said Blake. "I try to stay in front of him. You definitely have to take him off the three-point line and once he gets past the three-point line, to keep him in front of you, then make him take a tough shot."

The two first met at the Five-Star Basketball Camp in Pittsburgh during their high school days.

"We went up against each other three or four times there and it was a pretty good matchup then, too," said Blake, who has averaged 9.0 points and 10.3 assists in the three meetings against Duke this season.

QB reaches new goal line

Reserve guard Calvin McCall felt pretty comfortable with his excuse for missing Saturday's first spring football practice.

So much so, the sophomore quarterback didn't even have to tell Maryland's new football coach, Ralph Friedgen, about his upcoming absence.

"It's a good reason, going to the Final Four - there's nothing like it," said McCall. "I talked to him [yesterday morning], but he knew because he watched the game. He said good luck and congratulations for making it."

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