Now ruling class, UM back to work

Having beaten Duke, Virginia heads to Cole

March 02, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Byron Mouton drifted off to sleep after he thought the game was over. Juan Dixon stayed with the action until Duke guard Chris Duhon missed a last-second 55-foot desperation shot. Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams felt a strange sense of joy when the final buzzer sounded.

And each of the Terrapins came to practice yesterday wearing the same title - regular-season champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Never mind that the course toward clinching the crown took a wild turn late Thursday night in Charlottesville, Va., where slumping, unranked Virginia erased a 15-point second-half deficit and stunned third-ranked Duke, 87-84.

That dropped Duke two games behind the first-place Terps and delivered the first regular-season league title in 22 years to Maryland, which will conclude its regular season and the Cole Field House era tomorrow night against Virginia.

"It was kind of funny. In my mind, we were going to have to win on Sunday to win [the ACC] outright. All of a sudden, that changed pretty quick," said Williams, who watched the game at home and earned his first regular-season title in 13 seasons at Maryland, breaking Duke's stranglehold in the process. The Blue Devils had won or shared the past five regular-season championships.

"I couldn't believe it. Usually, a Duke team puts teams away in that situation," said Dixon, the senior guard who was referring to how the Blue Devils failed to protect a 12-point advantage with 6:53 left.

"Duke basically handed us the regular-season championship. You take it however you get it. For us to break their streak says a lot about our team. We came a long way in the last three or four years."

Mouton, the Terps' senior small forward, got the news when he was awakened by a reporter's phone call.

"It was late. I was tired," Mouton said. "If it was a close game, I would have watched the whole game. But it was at a point where I thought it was over. I told everybody that the ACC championship would be determined on Sunday."

Second-ranked Maryland (24-3, 14-1 ACC), which already has the best 27-game record in school history, takes a 14-0 home record and an 11-game winning streak into its regular-season finale. From there, it's on to Charlotte, N.C., next week as the ACC tournament's No. 1 seed.

Maryland has never won the conference tournament and has only been to the final once under Williams. The Terps last won the tournament in 1984 under Lefty Driesell. Duke has won the past three tournaments.

For now, Williams is concentrating on the Cavaliers (17-9, 7-8), who had lost seven of nine and tumbled out of the Top 25 before beating Duke. Virginia might need to beat Maryland to guarantee a return trip to the NCAA tournament.

"I think it's a game [Virginia] really wants to win. All we can do is get ourselves ready to play," he said.

NOTE: This is the eighth time that an ACC school has won undisputed championships in both football and men's basketball. In addition to this season, the Terps also did it in 1974-75. Duke (1954-55, 1962-63) and North Carolina (1970-71, 1977-78) have also done it twice, while South Carolina (1969-70) and North Carolina State (1973-74) also accomplished the double.

Nationwide, Maryland becomes only the fourth school to win titles in both sports in the same season over the past 20 years. The others were UCLA (Pac-10, 1982-83), Oklahoma (Big Eight, 1987-88) and Syracuse (Big East, 1996-97).

Oregon, which won the Pac-10 football championship in the fall, has clinched at least a tie for the men's basketball title with one game left.

Sun staff writer Christian Ewell contributed to this article.

Next for Terps

Opponent: Virginia

Site: Cole Field House, College Park

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

ACC standings

Conference Overall

Team W L Pct. W L Pct.

Maryland 14 1 .933 24 3 .889

Duke 12 3 .800 25 3 .893

N.C. State 9 6 .600 20 8 .714

Wake Forest 8 7 .533 18 11 .620

Virginia 7 8 .467 17 9 .654

Georgia Tech 6 9 .400 14 15 .483

Florida State 4 11 .267 11 15 .423

North Carolina 4 11 .267 8 18 .308

Clemson 4 12 .250 13 16 .448

Today's games

Georgia Tech at Florida State, noon N.C. State at Wake Forest, 2 p.m.

Tomorrow's games

North Carolina at Duke, 3:30 p.m. Virginia at Maryland, 8 p.m.

Thursday's result

Virginia 87, Duke 84

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