UM front line pulls inside job on Indiana

Baxter, Wilcox, Holden too tough for Hoosiers to handle down stretch

`Inside defense was great'

Terrapins hold Jeffries to 8 points

no foul shots for Indiana in 2nd half

April 02, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - When Indiana finally hit the wall in the NCAA tournament last night, the wall turned out to be Maryland's irrepressible front line.

That front line, featuring Lonny Baxter, Chris Wilcox and substitute Tahj Holden, gained a stranglehold on the national championship game when it mattered most - down the stretch.

It transformed Indiana's precocious 6-foot-10 Jared Jeffries into an erratic sophomore and 6-8 Jarrad Odle into an innocent bystander. When Maryland's 64-52 victory was complete, the Hoosiers didn't have to wonder where the game was lost.

"I thought their inside defense was great," said Indiana junior guard Tom Coverdale. "They didn't have to double team us much, and they could lock down on our shooters.

"We really haven't played a team that could do the things they could do."

Jeffries, who may want to reconsider plans to leave for the NBA next season, scored just eight points - to give him 999 for his first two college seasons - and pulled down seven rebounds.

But he had two shots blocked by Baxter, made just four of 11 attempts from the field and committed four turnovers.

Jeffries and Odle (no points, four rebounds) were outscored by Baxter and Wilcox, 25-8.

"I wouldn't necessarily say they bumped us off-stride," Jeffries said. "But they were definitely physical.

"They did a really good job as far as just contesting shots. They really didn't do a whole lot of fouling. Not a lot of bumps. They did a good job of not going across the arms and just contesting shots."

Maryland's defense was so efficient that Indiana (25-12) never made it to the foul line in the second half.

Indiana never found an answer for Baxter, who powered for 15 points and 14 rebounds, collecting three blocks along the way.

"He's so physical," Indiana coach Mike Davis said of Baxter. "He was just kind of bulling our guys out of the way. He would step in real hard. He got the ball point-blank. Once you get it point-blank, there's nothing you can do."

The Terps' perimeter defense was no less effective. For the first time in six tournament games, the Hoosiers shot under 50 percent from the field. They made 20 of 58 shots for the game (34.5 percent). Only their streaky three-point shooting (10-for-23) kept them in the game.

"They did a great job of being in the passing lanes," Davis said. "When we had open looks, they were there. It was similar to what Duke did to us. They took away the open look."

The Hoosiers were 14-1 this season when they shot 50 percent or better from the field.

For all of their difficulties, the Hoosiers made a strong second-half run that netted their only lead of the game. When Jeffries scored his second straight basket off a goaltend by Wilcox with 9:53 left, Indiana held a 44-42 advantage.

But the Hoosiers scored just three more field goals the rest of the game.

Juan Dixon hit a clutch three-pointer to regain the lead for the Terps (32-4), launching a game-closing 22-8 run.

"They just made the plays that championship teams make," Coverdale said.

Davis said the Hoosiers had their opportunities, but let them slip away with errant ballhandling in the final 10 minutes.

"We threw the ball away a couple times and the passes were there," he said. "It's just that we bobbled them. Once we bobbled the ball, they came up with the loose balls.

"In past games, we got every loose ball. Tonight they got all the loose balls."

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