Terps stop Tech, start No. 1 focus

85-65 win over Jackets sets Maryland free to satisfy Duke craving

10-1 UM's best ACC mark

Baxter, Wilcox lead domination of boards

February 14, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - They have no shortage of weapons, these Maryland Terrapins. And after disposing of struggling Georgia Tech, they can focus solely on beating the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils.

When they held off a determined Georgia Tech team with a close win a month ago in Atlanta, Maryland needed the late-game heroics of star senior guard Juan Dixon. In last night's 85-65 victory over the Yellow Jackets before a sellout crowd at Cole Field House, Dixon was off his normal game and it made no difference.

The No. 3 Terps hurt opponents in many ways. Last night, their outside shooting, particularly Dixon's, was suspect. But Maryland was determined to do what it does best by funneling the ball inside, and there was nothing Georgia Tech could do about it.

The size, strength and rebounding effort of senior center Lonny Baxter, senior forward Byron Mouton and sophomore forward Chris Wilcox was Maryland's main ticket, as the Terps grabbed 22 of their 53 rebounds on the offensive glass. Georgia Tech managed only 34 total rebounds.

Baxter produced his seventh double double of the year with a game-high 22 points and 10 rebounds. Wilcox added 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Mouton chipped in 14 points and seven more rebounds.

The rest of the show pretty much belonged to a defense that silenced Georgia Tech over the game's final 11 minutes, as Maryland turned a 64-54 lead into a rout.

It was a bruising, methodical tuneup for the season's main event, and the "We want Duke" cheer that commenced in the Maryland student section with a little under three minutes left told the story.

The Terps, after pulling even with Duke atop the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, becoming only the second team in school history to begin a season at 20-3 and the first to start 10-1 in the ACC, now can point to a rematch they have craved since losing at Duke four weeks ago.

On Sunday, with a likely regular-season championship on the line and a possible No. 1 ranking going to the winner, the Terps will welcome Duke to their house.

"It's been tough not to look forward to this game, but we've done a good job concentrating on the next game," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who began looking ahead to Sunday.

"This is why you're a college basketball player. This is why you come to the ACC, to play in games like this. Let's bring it on. Let's go play hard. If this isn't exciting, then something's wrong either as a player, coach or fan."

Maryland didn't exactly light up the joint with all-out effort at the outset last night, but once the Terps warmed up and combined good defense on the wings with their huge size advantage, the Yellow Jackets (10-15, 3-9) were doomed.

Behind Baxter, who scored 15 of his points in the first half, Maryland fended off the pesky Yellow Jackets and took a 44-38 halftime lead. Behind Baxter, Wilcox and Mouton, they overwhelmed Georgia Tech with a 21-6 run over most of the game's final 11:23.

"We just tried to attack early, get the ball inside and hurt them on the glass," Baxter said. "Once we got our defense settled and got the ball where we wanted to on offense, we were able to put them away."

Baxter, Wilcox and Mouton - with an assist from backup guard Drew Nicholas (seven points) - picked up Dixon, who missed 13 of 19 shots, failed to make a three-pointer in nine attempts and wound up with a hard-earned 14 points and seven rebounds.

"We got beat by a strong, physical team tonight. With 22 offensive boards [by Maryland], it begins and ends there," said Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, who plays five freshmen, three sophomores and a redshirt sophomore. "It takes too much energy to get the ball back and try and get your transition game going if you give them that many offensive rebounds."

Guards Tony Akins and Marvin Lewis and forward Isma'il Muhammad each scored 15 points for Georgia Tech, which hung tough early with the Terps.

Despite not getting any points for the game's first 18 minutes from Akins - the team's lone senior and leading scorer - Georgia Tech traded leads with Maryland six times in the opening seven minutes and was tied with the Terps at 14 with 12:22 left in the half.

The Yellow Jackets could not produce much in the paint, so they went outside to hurt Maryland by hitting four of their first nine three-point attempts. Lewis (12 first-half points) gave Georgia Tech its final lead of the half at 21-20 by hitting his first three of the night with 7:58 to go.

Baxter personally got the Terps out of the starting gate by scoring six of the team's first eight points and 10 of its first 14. Dixon and Mouton scored their first points of the night on back-to-back shots to give the Terps a 20-15 lead with 10:10 left, but the Yellow Jackets quickly answered with back-to-back threes by Clarence Moore and Lewis to regain the lead.

But the Terps responded with an 8-0 run.

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