UM-Kansas pointing toward high score

Final Four notebook

Offenses spurring talk of loser reaching 100

College Basketball

Ncaa Tournament

March 27, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Oklahoma men's basketball team has emerged as the chic prediction to be the last team standing Monday night at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The surging Sooners own impressive wins over Kansas and Maryland, and while they appear to have a clear advantage on Indiana in the first national semifinal, the prevailing logic is that the survivor of the Jayhawks-Terps nightcap won't have anything left in the tank.

Averaging 91.0 points a game, Midwest Regional champion Kansas leads the nation in scoring. East victor Maryland isn't far behind at 85.3. With junior forward Nick Collison making 59.0 percent of his field-goal attempts to show the way, the Jayhawks are among a handful of Division I teams to make more than half of their shots. With Lonny Baxter finishing 55.2 percent of his shots, the Terps are a solid 48.4 in that category.

Kansas just dropped 104 points on second seed Oregon. Against Connecticut, another No. 2 seed, Maryland delivered a marvelous performance in which it produced points on each of its last eight possessions, as Juan Dixon, Steve Blake and Baxter combined for two three-pointers by the guards, a power move by the big man and 10-for-10 free-throw shooting in the last five minutes.

Maryland became the only team to shoot 50 percent from the field against the Huskies. That East final was supposed to be a defensive struggle, but the Terps' clutch efficiency has CBS and more than 50,000 ticket-holders hoping for a racehorse game with Kansas.

The highest-scoring semifinal ever came in 1965, when UCLA beat Wichita State, 108-89. In 1987, Nevada-Las Vegas scored 93 and still lost by four to Indiana. Could the Kansas-Maryland loser be the first Final Four team to score 100 in the semis and lose?

"Of course that's possible, but in today's college game it's hard to see two quality teams both score 100," Blake said. "With the athletes on the court, and the way they can play defense, it's tough to do that these days, but anything's possible. We've shown we can get to 100."

Maryland got 112 against Virginia in the final game at Cole Field House on March 3. Kansas won, 105-97, at Arizona on Dec. 1, and surpassed that twice total twice before the new year.

"We dropped 90 on Connecticut, and we didn't play well," junior forward Tahj Holden said. "This Saturday, the losing team could definitely score 100."

Inside strength

Maryland has one of the nation's premier inside combinations in Baxter and sophomore Chris Wilcox, but it isn't as heralded as the Kansas duo of Drew Gooden and Collison. Gooden, 6 feet 10 and 230 pounds, averages 20.0 points and 11.5 rebounds. Collison, 6-9 and 250, contributes 15.4 and 8.3, respectively.

Baxter is coming off a postseason career-high 29 points, as he demolished a Connecticut tag team and earned his second straight Regional Most Valuable Player honors. His 2001 trophy was clinched with a career game against Stanford, and he mentioned the 7-foot Collins twins, Jarron and Jason, when asked if he had ever faced a challenge of the magnitude he'll encounter Saturday.

Holden said that last season's West Regional final wasn't the only daunting front line Maryland's big men have faced. He mentioned North Carolina before its big fall, when the Wizards' Brendan Haywood and NFL prospect Julius Peppers made life easy for Tar Heel teammate Kris Lang.

Et cetera

Gooden has a school-record 25 double doubles. ... The Terps will practice at Cole today, then take a charter flight to Atlanta. Tomorrow, they'll practice at Philips Arena, home of the Hawks. ... Richard Blake, Steve's father, will log some serious miles on his customized van this week. He drove from Syracuse, N.Y., back to his home in Miami, and after a few days work he'll motor to Atlanta. The elder Blake is averse to air travel, and he drove directly from MCI Center to the Carrier Dome between the Terps' second- and third-round victories. ... Maryland and Kansas last met on Dec. 7, 1997, when Terrell Stokes hit two big free throws in the Terps' 86-83 victory in the semifinals of the BB&T Classic. The second-ranked Jayhawks featured Paul Pierce and Raef LaFrentz. ... WJZ will air a one-hour special, Terps Pep Rally, at 10p.m. Friday.

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