Terps tame 'Noles, 85-59

Up 1 with 15:10 left, UM goes on 21-0 run to snap out of funk

Williams: `We picked it up'

N.C. State is next for No. 1 seed in ACC semifinals

March 09, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Maryland Terrapins hardly produced a stellar, wire-to-wire effort as they opened the 49th annual Atlantic Coast Conference tournament yesterday, but the top-seeded, second-ranked Terps only needed six minutes to remind Florida State that they were in charge.

Maryland won its 13th consecutive game and moved on to its eighth straight ACC tournament semifinal by pounding the eighth-seeded Seminoles, 85-59, before 23,895 at Charlotte Coliseum.

The only surprise to emerge from the rout, which puts Maryland (26-3) up against North Carolina State today, was how much sweat the Terps had to break to dispose of Florida State.

After an uneven first half in which they pretty much controlled the Seminoles while taking a 40-28 lead, the Terps broke form by getting off to a lazy, second-half start, while Florida State began the half with a 13-2 run to shave Maryland's lead to 42-41 with 15:10 left.

At that point, Seminoles guard Monte Cummings was abusing Maryland's Juan Dixon, and the Seminoles had turned four Maryland turnovers into points. At that point, Maryland coach Gary Williams had burned two quick timeouts, and Williams chose to leave the Maryland huddle during an ensuing television timeout, leaving senior forward Byron Mouton to address his teammates with some choice words.

And right after that point, the Terps brought reality crashing down on the Seminoles with a furious, 21-0 run that put Maryland firmly in front, 63-41, with 9:13 to go.

From there, Maryland gradually emptied its bench against a tired opponent. The Seminoles (12-17), whose coach, Steve Robinson, most likely has run his last game in Tallahassee, were playing only 14 hours after winning an overtime, play-in game against Clemson, 91-84.

"We weren't mentally tough enough for 20 minutes in the first half. Then, the first four minutes [of the second half] were a nightmare. Then, we picked it up," said Williams, who took a rare walk away from his huddle before watching the Terps take out the Seminoles.

"I had nothing good to say, so I got out of there," he added. "I had made my point during the previous timeout. I would have burned another one [if not for TV]. The way that thing was going we had to get it stopped somehow. I was upset, no doubt. These guys have worked too hard, too long."

That left the motivational speaking duties to Mouton, one of Maryland's three seniors.

"I wanted to get them mad and frustrated," said Mouton, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half, added seven rebounds and also drew the team's first technical foul of the season, in the first half. "I wanted them to go out there and be aggressive. I wanted them to take it out on Florida State. The next thing you know, we were up by 18 or 19 points."

The next thing you knew, the Terps started acting like themselves again, and so did Florida State, which went 12 possessions without a point during its collapse and ended the game with 19 turnovers, only seven assists and shot just 30 percent from the field.

The next thing you knew, Maryland started creating fast-break points out of its full-court pressure and started shredding Florida State's 2-3 zone with great ball movement. And Dixon, after surrendering 10 straight Florida State points to Cummings to start the second half, answered like an All-America player should by scoring nine of his game-high 20 points after that pivotal timeout.

Point guard Steve Blake, who gave the Terps a little bit of everything with 10 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals, started the big run with a three-pointer from the right wing, giving Maryland a 45-41 lead with 14:42 left. At the 12:57 mark, Dixon turned a great feed from Blake into a three-pointer, making it 52-41.

Backup guard Drew Nicholas followed with a three-point play. Blake then stole an in-bounds pass and fed Dixon, who nailed a 15-foot, baseline jumper. Another Blake steal led to a layup by center Lonny Baxter (10 points, three rebounds, three steals, two blocks). A hook shot by backup center Ryan Randle and a tip-in by backup forward Tahj Holden finished the run.

"When we got it to about 49-41, I looked at a couple of their guys and it was like, `Damn, we had our chance. This might be it,' " Dixon said. "Florida State gave us their best effort. They had an emotional game last night, and we knew they were going to come out ready to play."

Cummings led the Seminoles with 19 points. Center Nigel Dixon had 13 points, 12 rebounds and eight turnovers. Senior point guard Delvon Arrington finished his collegiate career on a down note by scoring nine points on 3-for-13 shooting, thanks mostly to Blake's defense.

"Fatigue set in, but I can't blame it on that," Arrington said. "This is what you live for, to play the game of basketball. When you're out there, you have to forget about those things. Things went back their way. Momentum changed and never changed back."

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