Terps' seniors know feeling of Ky.'s claws

Wilcox anticipates chance to stop Wildcats' Prince

Maryland notebook

College Basketball

March 20, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Three seniors will meet for the fourth time when the Maryland men's basketball team meets Kentucky on Friday. Tayshaun Prince holds a 2-1 edge, but Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter can more than make amends in a winner-take-all Round 4 in an East Regional semifinal in Syracuse, N.Y.

Terps coach Gary Williams doesn't usually schedule home-and-home series with other major conference powers. Maryland's visit to Oklahoma on Dec. 21 was the return for the Sooners' trip to Baltimore Arena during the 2000-01 season, and that's the only recent series that was similar to the titanic meetings the Terps had with the Wildcats a few years ago.

ESPN was most interested in Maryland and Steve Francis three seasons ago. On Dec. 12, 1999, the Terps played their first game in Lexington, Ky., since 1958. Maryland entered with a 10-0 record and the No. 2 ranking. Connecticut scored an unimpressive victory over Pitt earlier in the day, and there was speculation that a win would have given the Terps their first No. 1 ranking, but No. 5 Kentucky posted a 103-91 victory in front of 24,321 at Rupp Arena.

Francis and Houston Rockets teammate Terence Morris combined for 51 points as Maryland trailed 54-41 at the half, but the Terps mounted a furious comeback that cut it to four in the final minute. Dixon had seven points in 13 minutes, and Prince had 13 for the Wildcats.

"I remember Rupp [Arena] being a hostile environment, and the crowd going crazy," Dixon said. "I didn't get to play much, but it was a good experience."

Baxter played only two minutes at Kentucky, but he and Dixon became starters the next season, when the Terps and Wildcats split.

Prince had 21 and Dixon struggled with his shooting as Kentucky beat Maryland, 61-58, on Nov. 24, 1999, at Madison Square Garden, in the semifinals of the Preseason National Invitation Tournament. Two weeks later, the Wildcats visited Cole Field House and posed a major threat to the nonconference home-court streak that was then at 68 games. Morris had 22 and Dixon 15 as Maryland won, 72-66.

Prince had 14 points in that most recent meeting, Baxter six.

Who guards Prince?

Prince is coming off a career-high 41-point outburst. He's a 6-foot-9 wing from the West Coast who has dropped in 62 three-pointers, and Prince poses serious matchup problems for every Kentucky opponent.

Sound like anyone Chris Wilcox shut down last month?

Junior Mike Dunleavy dropped 21 points on Byron Mouton when Duke beat Maryland, 99-78, at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 17. Dixon led the lobby to mark Dunleavy with Wilcox when the top-ranked Blue Devils came to Cole on Feb. 17. The still-emerging sophomore limited Dunleavy to 5-for-14 shooting, 3-for-10 from three-point range, and scored a career-high 23 as Maryland got its most significant victory of the regular season, 87-73.

"Tayshaun's a great player, and in order for us to win, we have to stop him," Wilcox said. "If I'm guarding him, I'm going to have to give 110 percent."

Wilcox was asked if the experience he gained guarding Dunleavy away from the basket would be a benefit should he guard Prince, who is Dixon's early competition for East Regional MVP.

"Yes," Wilcox said. "I'm still learning how to chase people on the perimeter."

Back in a dome

With the Southeastern Conference tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and its "pod" sent to St. Louis, Kentucky played its past three games in a dome. The Terps haven't played in a football stadium this season, but they've dealt with shooting in domes.

Last season, the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament was played in the Georgia Dome, and Maryland's first Final Four was played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, where the Terps played both of their NCAA tournament games in 2000.

None of the Terps have played at the Carrier Dome, the site of the last two rounds of the East Regional, but Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim had it configured for basketball when Steve Blake made a recruiting visit in the summer of 1998. Williams coached Big East Conference rival-Boston College from 1983 to 1986, and he remembers Pearl Washington beating his Eagles at the buzzer at the Carrier Dome.

Dixon went to one of his best friends from Baltimore, Georgetown guard Kevin Braswell (Lake Clifton), for a shooter's scouting report.

"I asked him about playing at the Carrier Dome," Dixon said. "He said they were pretty easy rims to shoot on. It's so big, but hopefully during shoot-around, we'll get used to it."

Et cetera

Baxter needs 37 rebounds to become only the second Terp to reach 1,000 for his career. ... Playing in an era of freshman ineligibility, Len Elmore needed just three seasons to compile his school-record 1,053. Baxter is second with 963, but his career average of 7.2 isn't even in the Maryland top 10. ... Baxter's 1,794 career points stand eighth, and he's just seven points behind Tom McMillen. ... A win over the Wildcats would be the Terps' school-record 29th.

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