Blake doesn't pass on scoring

Open guard makes point, fills void for Maryland in rout of Wake Forest

ACC notebook

January 25, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Wake Forest men's basketball team could not be blamed for ignoring Maryland point guard Steve Blake.

With scorers like Juan Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox on the floor, why worry about Blake putting the ball in the basket? Coming into the game, Blake was averaging 7.1 points, barely six attempted shots a game and was shooting only 33 percent from the field.

As he has done on numerous occasions when defenses leave him free, Blake found his stroke, and he did it in timely fashion.

The most impressive facet of Maryland's 85-63 rout of Wake was how the Terps picked up their stumbling starters. Baxter and Wilcox were in early foul trouble. Dixon's shot wasn't falling. Byron Mouton was scoreless for the first 30 minutes.

Into the void stepped Blake and Maryland's bench of Drew Nicholas, Tahj Holden and Ryan Randle, who outscored the Demon Deacons' backups 27-16. Blake had his best offensive game since scoring a career-high 20 in the season's first victory over Temple. In addition, he took Wake point guard Broderick Hicks out of the game defensively and added three assists and two steals.

"If they are leaving me wide-open, I can't help but shoot the ball," said Blake, after netting his Atlantic Coast Conference career high with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including 3-for-4 from three-point range.

"That was probably the best all-around game [Blake] has played since he's been at Maryland," Maryland coach Gary Williams said.

Blake usually is content to play the classic point guard role by distributing the ball to the scorers surrounding him. He is currently averaging 7.5 assists a game.

Official response from Duke

Apparently, the only people who think nothing of the popular theory that Duke occasionally benefits from some interesting officiating are Blue Devils fans. At least, one would draw that conclusion based on the sights at Cameron Indoor Stadium during Maryland's visit last week.

Numerous students and other Cameron Crazies were sporting striped, black-and-white T-shirts that resembled referees' attire. Then there were the signs, like the one that read, "Maryland fans think the refs faked the moon landing."

Give the youngsters credit for trying their hand, albeit clumsily, at satire. They obviously were needling the Terps, who felt Maryland's Final Four loss to Duke a year ago was marred by some questionable moments on the part of the zebras.

Will anyone soon forget how the perception of Duke favoritism continued in the national championship victory over Arizona, when Jason Williams appeared to commit at least six fouls, but was still around late to hit a huge three-pointer? Or the way the packed Metrodome - which was filled with fans with no connection to Maryland - booed the officials loudly in the season finale's opening minutes? Or the controversy that stewed for days in many newspapers and on national sports talk radio shows?

Before the Terps and Duke tipped off on Jan. 17, the students circulated a statement that read, "After the close Duke-Maryland Final Four matchup last year, there was a widespread (and well-publicized) perception among Maryland fans that the officials deliberately favored Duke.

"We intend to satirize that perception by wearing these referee shirts and holding signs with tongue-in-cheek messages. It is certainly not our aim to make fun of the officials themselves; rather, we only want to satirize Maryland paranoia and call attention to the absurdity of the idea that the referees were biased in Duke's favor."

The nation surely appreciates the clarification.

Heels' numbers fall again

At least North Carolina coach Matt Doherty doesn't have to keep answering questions about players he has never had during this, the most trying season in decades in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels, who fell to 5-11 and 1-5 in the ACC with Wednesday's loss to visiting North Carolina State, will get no help from Julius Peppers or Ronald Curry.

Peppers, one of the more imposing power forwards in the country a year ago, announced earlier this month that he would concentrate on getting ready for the coming NFL draft. The Tar Heels' defensive end figures to be a top-three pick.

Curry, who manned the point guard position a year ago and would be a significant upgrade this year, decided to pass on the basketball season after playing quarterback for Carolina's football team.

"Would we be better with them? Sure, but they're not here, just like Joe Forte isn't here," said Doherty, alluding to the former shooting guard's early exit for the NBA. "Coach [Dean] Smith would have won more national championships if Michael Jordan had stayed, if James Worthy, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse had stayed. There's no use worrying about it."

UM weekly glance

A look back: The Terps rebounded from their loss at Duke by beating Clemson in a 99-90 shootout on Sunday, then hammering Wake Forest on Wednesday, 85-63.

A look ahead: Florida State visits Cole Field House tomorrow, nearly a year after shocking the Terps there. Maryland then travels to Virginia on Thursday before playing host to North Carolina State on Sunday.

Of note: With his next steal, senior guard Juan Dixon will become the first ACC player to record 1,800 points and 300 steals. Dixon needs 46 steals to break the school record held by Johnny Rhodes.

By the numbers: Backup guard Drew Nicholas might be the hottest sixth man in the league right now. Nicholas, playing the point, the off-guard and the third wheel in Maryland's three-guard set, has averaged 12 points and four rebounds in his last three games.

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