UM ready for slugfest in Round 2

Top-seeded Terps face bruising Badgers for spot in Sweet 16

`They are a strong team'

Maryland is eager to return to court after win over Siena

Ncaa Tournament

March 17, 2002|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- In an ideal scenario painted by senior guard Juan Dixon, the Maryland Terrapins will jump on Wisconsin early and suffer no defensive lapses. Dixon quickly will reach the scoring record he has been stalking. And the Terps will feed off of their home-crowd advantage at MCI Center, bag another victory, then prepare for a business trip to the East Regional in Syracuse, N.Y., as the NCAA tournament pressure builds.

Not that top-seeded Maryland expects the eighth-seeded Badgers to offer lukewarm resistance in today's second-round contest. The Terps, seeking their sixth Sweet 16 experience in the past nine years, know better.

They know Wisconsin, led by first-year coach and Big Ten Coach of the Year Bo Ryan, will brings its proven shooters and its trademark style. They know the Badgers (19-12), who have won seven of their past eight games, usually are tough with their man-to-man defense and a motion offense that thrives on hard cuts, bruising screens and the three-point shot.

The Badgers shared the Big Ten championship with three other teams, despite losing four starters from an NCAA tournament squad that, among other things, edged Maryland in overtime nearly 16 months ago in Milwaukee.

After that game, former Badgers coach Dick Bennett, who had taken Wisconsin to the Final Four a year earlier -- also as a No. 8 seed -- announced his retirement, citing burnout.

The school hired Ryan away from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the Badgers are still the Badgers. They will post you up with guards like Kirk Penney and Travon Davis, and big men like center Charlie Wills don't mind shooting from the perimeter. They love to play with three guards, and a four-guard alignment is never out of the question.

"They bring toughness with them. There's constant motion, constant movement in their offense. That's why they are so tough to guard at times," Maryland point guard Steve Blake said.

"They really know how to play as a unit, which is to their credit because they did lose starters from last year," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "They still do a lot of the same things, in terms of screening. They have a lot of people who can shoot threes. They might not be the most athletic team, but they are a strong team."

Maryland (27-4) sounded eager to return to the court after putting away 16th-seeded Siena in less-than-overwhelming fashion late Friday night. Several times during their opening-round, 85-70 victory over the only team that made the NCAAs with a losing record, the Terps were on the verge of destroying Siena. But the Saints kept hanging around in a game they could never control.

Maryland's 14-point halftime lead was cut to 10 early in the second half, before the Terps, led by Dixon's season-high 29 points, stretched the lead to 24 midway through the half.

"We let them hang around too much," said Terps forward Byron Mouton, who finished with only six points on a rare night when Maryland lacked scoring balance. "If we had played for 40 minutes, it would have been a 35-point game. In order to be a great team, we've got to be killers."

Said Williams: "We didn't play well when we got [the lead] to 20. I wanted to win by 30. Siena had something to do with that, with the way they made shots. We can score pretty consistently, but to get big runs, you have to stop the other team on defense. We don't always play that good on defense. When we do, we're really good."

The Badgers played the no-pressure-is-on-us card with verve yesterday, from Penney to Davis to Ryan, who jokingly forgot the name of Maryland forward Chris Wilcox by referring to him as "the guy who jumps so high he left two dimes and a nickel on top of the backboard [against Siena].

"I think [Maryland's] synergy is pretty good offensively because they will post hard, slash hard and shoot the threes," Ryan added. "They will defend and turn defense to offense. I don't see them necessarily having a weakness."

As for facing a prohibitive favorite on a court less than a half-hour from its campus, Davis said, "What more could you ask for as a competitor? It's prime time, we're in the nation's capital against one of the best teams in the country. If that doesn't get you going, I don't know what it will take. We're looking forward to the challenge."

To beat Wisconsin, it will take a more tenacious defensive effort than Maryland has put forth lately, and it will take another typical effort from an offense that has rolled along on almost every night, from the interior to the wings.

"It was our first experience as a No. 1 seed, and it was a good experience. We didn't play tough defense at times, but all that matters is we got the win," said Dixon, who needs seven points to reach 2,150 and pass the late Len Bias as the leading all-time scorer in Maryland history. Dixon has hit double figures in 49 consecutive games.

"If I get seven points in the first two minutes, I'll take it," he added. "I want to come into this game being as aggressive as I was in the first game. I plan on being aggressive for this whole tournament, as long as we're in it."

Terps today, Opponent: Wisconsin (19-12) in NCAA tournament East Regional second round

Site: MCI Center, Washington

Time: 5 p.m. (approximately)

TV/Radio: Chs. 13, 9/WBAL (1090 AM)

Today's other games

Cincinnati vs. UCLA, 12:10 p.m., chs. 13, 9

Mississippi State vs. Texas, 2:15 p.m.

Illinois vs. Creighton, 2:20 p.m.

Connecticut vs. N.C. State, 2:30 p.m., chs. 13, 9

Pittsburgh vs. California, 2:36 p.m.

Oklahoma vs. Xavier, 4:41 p.m.

Georgia vs. Southern Illinois, 4:46 p.m.

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