Terps' Dixon has game he would like to forget

Usually reliable vs. Duke, senior scores just 10, struggles defensively

January 18, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

DURHAM, N.C. - The question that lingered as third-ranked Maryland left the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium after last night's 99-78 loss to top-ranked Duke was obvious: What happened to Juan Dixon?

In a setting that Dixon has enjoyed for much of his college career, against a team he has dominated, Dixon was locked up offensively by Dahntay Jones and was overrun defensively by Jason Williams.

The fifth-year senior from Baltimore finished with a season-low 10 points, and was held without a field goal in the second half. Williams scored a game-high 34 for the Blue Devils.

Even in the scintillating first half that included 27 lead changes and ended with the Terrapins leading 49-48, Dixon was barely visible.

His first basket, a three-point shot, came on Maryland's fourth possession. His next basket, part of a three-point play, came 25 possessions later. Dixon finished the half with six points on 2-for-7 shooting and was only 2-for-9 for the game.

"I hurt my team a lot," said Dixon, who had scored 59 points in his past two visits here. "I didn't stay tough. I missed a lot of opportunities when I had open looks and didn't knock down shots."

But it was Dixon's inability to stop Williams from penetrating that seemed to bother him the most.

"You have to win games on the defensive end," he said. "We didn't play too good as a team defensively. Next time I'm going to take a little more pride in my defense and stop them from getting easy baskets."

Jones, a transfer from Rutgers, lived up to his reputation as the team's defensive stopper. It was a role he inherited when Shane Battier graduated. Maryland fans might remember how, as a sophomore, Battier shut down Steve Francis by using his height advantage.

For Jones, it was simply a case of staying in front of Dixon and not letting him penetrate. Jones said he watched a lot of tape of Dixon the past few days to learn his tendencies, and got help from his teammates when Dixon got by him, something the Maryland guard didn't always receive when Williams blew by him toward the basket.

"I was just trying to deny him the ball as much as I could," said Jones.

Jones also made his presence felt inside, blocking Maryland center Lonny Baxter on a dunk attempt in the second half. It came shortly before the Blue Devils broke open the game, and Baxter was noticeably silent inside during that stretch.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski looked at what happened to Dixon as merely a good defensive effort all around, not just by Jones.

"I thought our team defense was good and Dahntay did a good job on him, but of all of the kids who don't play for Duke, Juan is my favorite player," Krzyzewski said. "I admire him. He's a warrior. He missed some shots. We played good defense on him, but he could go for 40 the next time."

Given the problems he gave Maryland, so could Williams.

"You adjust to him," said Maryland coach Gary Williams. "If you come up on him, he goes by you. If you stay back, he can shoot the three. That's what separates him from a lot of players."

It certainly separated Williams from Dixon in this game.

"Jason was huge," said Krzyzewski. "He just gave us the confidence. He played like a great player tonight. A lot of kids put up numbers in other games, but he put them up in a great game. It takes a great player to do that."

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