Dixon puts last week, behind, scores 29

Terps star sets tone, needs 7 points to break UM career scoring mark

Ncaa Tournament

March 16, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Juan Dixon and Maryland started cold in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament a week ago today, and paid for it with an upset loss to North Carolina State.

Last night at MCI Center, the senior leader made sure the Terps would advance in the NCAA tournament, as he came out hot and helped put Siena in an early 19-point hole from which a No. 16 seed couldn't hope to escape.

The Calvert Hall graduate needed less than 17 minutes to surpass the 19.3 scoring average that helped him become Maryland's first ACC Player of the Year since Joe Smith.

Dixon made four of his first five three-pointers and matched his career high with five baskets beyond the arc. He finished with 29 points, four shy of his career best, on 10-for-17 shooting.

It was the most points by a Maryland player in an NCAA tournament game since Smith scored 31 against Texas in 1995.

Dixon needs just seven points in tomorrow's second-round game against Wisconsin to surpass the 2,149 piled up by the late Len Bias from 1982 to 1986 and become Maryland's all-time leading scorer. After waiting nearly all day for a 10:15 p.m. tip-off, Dixon established a pace that had him on track to get that mark last night.

"That was the goal coming into tonight," Dixon said. "At a meeting last night, the first five decided we wanted to set the tone. This is my last time in the tournament, and I wanted to be aggressive."

Dixon had 12 of Maryland's first 18 points, as he started with two free throws, turned an errant Saints pass into a breakaway lay-in, then went deep into the left corner for a three-pointer that put the Terps on top to stay at 12-10.

Two possessions later he hit another three-pointer, then cooled off for a few minutes against the close defense of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year Dwayne Archbold.

Ahead 39-29, Maryland blew the game open with eight straight points, all involving Dixon.

He started the run with two free throws, followed with a three-pointer from the right wing, then forced a turnover. His drive and dish - one of Dixon's four assists - set up a three-point play by Tahj Holden. On the Terps' next possession, Dixon made another three from the left side that made it 50-31 with 3:05 left in the half.

Dixon completed his scoring with 11:00 left, when one last three-pointer put Maryland on top 70-46. Just 14 of his 32 minutes came in the second half.

Dixon was coming off a 6-for-16 performance that was his fifth-worst shooting game of the season.

"I felt bad for Juan about the N.C. State game," coach Gary Williams said. "We didn't run our offense well, and that affects Juan's shooting. Juan is a marked man. Other teams are trying to stop him, and when he hits a few early, that builds momentum and Juan took advantage of the situation."

While miffed that the letdown against N.C. State kept Maryland out of last Sunday's ACC championship game, it was still a pretty good week for a kid who wasn't that highly recruited out of Baltimore's Catholic League and had his Maryland career delayed by academic struggles.

Besides outpolling Jason Williams for ACC Player of the Year honors, Dixon joined the more highly touted Duke junior on the All-American team. He is the only college player ever to amass 2,000 points, 300 steals and 300 three-pointers.

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