Terps run and hide from American, 83-53

Early 27-6 bulge grows as Baxter, Dixon lead No. 2

College Basketball

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

COLLEGE PARK - Just before yesterday's tip-off at Cole Field House, they watched the banner forever honoring them as the school's first Final Four participants unfurl from the rafters. Then, the Maryland Terrapins wasted no time lowering the boom on American University.

No. 2 Maryland gave an announced crowd of 13,485 a predictable treat at its home opener, which will be the last such game at Cole. The Terps used their inside size and strength and overall quickness to great advantage and got outstanding efforts from their two marquee players, while taking command early and walking away with an 83-53 rout.

Senior center Lonny Baxter and senior guard Juan Dixon, the team's two preseason All-America candidates and the heart of the Terps, gave American the inside-outside problems that have been so familiar to Maryland opponents for the past two years. On a day when Maryland (2-1) lacked a shooting touch for notable stretches from the field and at the free-throw line, Baxter and Dixon were the steady hands.

Baxter, who missed five of his first six attempts, finished with a game-high 25 points and nine rebounds by making 10 of his final 14 shots. Dixon, who passed up a fast-break dunk early and smiled after he blew a layup on the same play - he blamed his sore left ankle for the awkward moment - still rang up 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting, including 4-for-10 from three-point range.

The Terps never gave American (0-1) a chance to think it could pull off an upset. Maryland scored the game's first 10 points, extended its lead to 27-6 nine minutes into the affair and led by as many as 33 points early in the second half. Only a 15-6 run by the Eagles, which cut Maryland's lead to 72-51 with 3:27 left - the closest American would draw in the half - produced murmurs of concern from the crowd and some sharp sideline words from Terps coach Gary Williams.

"It's a local team, a lot of our guys know guys on that team, and we came out thinking we've got to put them away early," said senior forward Byron Mouton, who recorded a game-high 10 rebounds to go with eight points and three assists. "You can't give a team like that confidence. I think we did a great job of punishing them."

Maryland threw its pressing defense all over American early, forced 11 first-half turnovers, ran its fast break effectively, and basically knocked out the smaller, undermanned Eagles while breaking its first sweat. American shot just 28.6 percent from the field and got out-rebounded by the larger Terps, 58-43. Maryland also attacked American's man-to-man defense with crisp passing for most of the day.

The high point for American came in the second half, with the game well in hand. The Eagles put together a spirited run behind Brian Williams, who scored eight of American's 10 points during that stretch. Williams also exchanged some mocking sounds and gestures with the Maryland student section. Williams drew a scolding on the bench from American coach Jeff Jones.

"I think we came out really well and were ready to play and did what we wanted to do, which was get the ball inside," said Williams, who beat the school that gave him his first head coaching job in 1978, while passing his old Maryland coach, Bud Millikan, to take second place on the Terps' all-time list with his 244th victory.

The only thing Williams could criticize was the way the Terps put the ball in the basket. Maryland shot only 41 percent and missed 10 of its 23 free throws. Mouton, a 70 percent foul shooter last year, missed five of seven.

"We didn't shoot the ball particularly well, yet we were running good offense. We just had some looks where we didn't put the ball down," said Williams, who cleared his entire bench. "We have to do a better job of finishing our shots. Free-throw shooting is the most psychological part of the game. We made 17 of 19 in the exhibition on Tuesday. It drives you nuts. But I liked our effort."

Jones, who knows Maryland well from his ACC days as a player and coach at Virginia, knew what to expect.

"They were looking to come up with the knockout right out of the gate and we didn't handle it very well. I think we came in, and as much as we talked about it, we were maybe a little intimidated and a little bit in awe and they attacked us and we were shell-shocked."

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