Va. tops Duke, lifts UM to title

87-84 upset of No. 3 gives Terps 1st outright ACC crown in 22 years

March 01, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Terrapins are Atlantic Coast Conference champions for the first time in 22 years, and they don't have to play another game to prove it.

Thanks to Virginia's come-from-behind, 87-84 win over the No. 3 Duke men's basketball team last night at University Hall in Charlottesville, Va., the second-ranked Terps clinched the ACC title without having to beat Virginia on Sunday in the final game at Cole Field House.

Maryland coach Gary Williams, who has spent all 13 of his years in College Park chasing an outright regular-season ACC crown, gets to enjoy his second outright league title in 24 years of coaching. He won the East Coast Conference at American University in 1981.

Maryland was part of a four-way tie for the league championship in 1995. The school has now won three undisputed ACC titles.

"We earned it. We've worked hard to get where we are. To win it outright is great," said Williams, whose Terps (24-3 overall) are 14-1 against the ACC for the first time in school history.

"The league has been hard," Williams added. "Duke has been Duke, Carolina has been Carolina. You were always going up against a No. 1 or No. 2 team. We had to figure out a way to beat those teams. We put ourselves in a position to win it outright if somebody else lost."

Virginia (17-9, 7-8 ACC), which had fallen out of the Top 25 this week after losing seven of nine, held the Blue Devils (25-3, 12-3) scoreless for more than 6 1/2 minutes as part of the game-closing 21-7 run.

Keith Jenifer's floater with 1:13 to play gave the Cavaliers the lead for good at 78-77, and they were up 85-82 when Duke's Jason Williams had a chance to tie the score with 12 seconds left.

He was fouled as he converted his own miss, but missed the free throw that would have given him a second three-point play in the final 15 seconds.

Roger Mason Jr. rebounded the miss for the Cavaliers and his free throws made it 87-84. When the ball was knocked away from Williams, Mason grabbed it, was fouled and missed both free throws, but Williams' half-court heave missed badly.

Terps senior forward Byron Mouton was shocked. "The way Virginia was playing, I didn't think they had a chance," Mouton said. "It's crazy. This is a magical season. Everything is falling into place."

Williams promised Maryland would not lose any focus against Virginia, which will be looking for another huge upset. "There are still a lot of reasons to win that game," Williams said. "You don't want to lose any momentum."

The Terps are unbeaten at home this year.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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