UM wary of joining ranks of upset victims

Surprises force Terps to focus on Del. State, though No. 2 Ill. looms

November 24, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Juan Dixon is as much of a basketball fan as he is a player, and Dixon has watched or read about enough shocking upsets in the NCAA over the past week to eye today's Maryland opponent with concern.

With No. 2 Illinois looming in the opening game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night at Cole Field House, will the No. 6 Terrapins take visiting, unranked Delaware State lightly today? Dixon shook his head.

"We should not look past Delaware State. They have some athletic guys, and we have to come to play against them," said Dixon, Maryland's senior shooting guard and leading scorer, who pondered recent home-court losses by North Carolina and Kentucky to unranked teams.

Carolina is 0-2 at home for the first time ever after dropping decisions to Hampton and Davidson. Kentucky lost to Western Kentucky, which has since moved to No. 21.

"Teams like North Carolina and Kentucky went down easy, and we have to play hard [today] before we look ahead to our next game. We have to start out strong, like we did against American," added Dixon, alluding to last week's 83-53 Maryland rout.

The Terps (2-1) will be trying to duplicate the formula that knocked out American before the home fans had settled into their seats. Use their size advantage to pound the ball inside to center Lonny Baxter and forwards Tahj Holden and Chris Wilcox. Use their quickness to exploit Delaware State's man-to-man defense and create easy points off turnovers. Attack the boards like they did against American, when the Terps grabbed 58 rebounds, the highest total by a Maryland team in three seasons.

Terps coach Gary Williams said the Hornets (2-0) have Maryland's attention, after beating Hartford in their opener, then reversing an eight-point halftime deficit en route to a 60-52 victory at Maine. The Hornets are led by guards Miles Davis (9.0 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Marty Bailey (18.0 ppg) and forward Andre Matthews (16.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg).

"You'd like to think that the best guys always win, but that's not always the case. If you let a team hang around, and they're still hanging around by halftime, you're going to be in for a long night," Williams said.

"Watching [Delaware State] on tape, these guys play good basketball. Maine can be a tough place to play, especially when it's 20 degrees below zero."

Williams, who passed his old coach, Bud Millikan, a week ago to move into second place behind Lefty Driesell on the school's all-time coaching victory list, should collect No. 245 today against the same program that served as his first victim in College Park 12 years ago. The Terps opened the Williams era with an 87-53 win over Delaware State on Nov. 25, 1989.

The Terps need to tune up for Illinois by improving in several areas. They are shooting only 55.6 percent at the free-throw line. Holden, who generally has played well but is averaging only 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds, has taken only 11 shots and three foul shots in three games. Backup guard Drew Nicholas is still searching for his stroke, having missed six of his first seven three-pointers. And Dixon thinks Maryland's transition defense needs to get better.

But don't expect the Terps to play passively. Williams, like the players, is anticipating the Illinois game. Williams expects a serious effort out of Maryland.

"Our guys are basketball fans. These guys watch a lot of games. They know what's going on," Williams said. "The Illinois game is in their minds. They know who we play after this game. But they know who we play Saturday and how important it is to win that game."

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