Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Terps seek closure


Maryland's theme for this season appears to be "Unfinished Business."

The Terrapins' starting five returned three seniors and a junior from last year's 2001 Final Four squad.

That team squandered a 22-point, first-half lead to Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke in the national semifinals.

Maryland's focus can be measured by its consistency, as the Terrapins were the only team in this NCAA Tournament not to lose a game to an opponent currently unranked.

Those loses were to Arizona, Oklahoma, Duke and North Carolina State.

The Terps put together their best record in school history (30-4) and their best regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference record (15-1).

Maryland (30-4)

How they got to Atlanta: Defeated No. 16 seed Siena 85-70 in the first round; No. 8 seed Wisconsin 87-57 in the second round; No. 4 seed Kentucky 78-68 in the regional semifinal; No. 2 seed Connecticut 90-82 in the regional final.

Why they got there: Center Lonny Baxter and guard Juan Dixon, two of three senior starters, give the Terrapins a terrific inside/outside combination, while point guard Steve Blake delivers the basketball where it needs to be. Forwards Chris Wilcox and Byron Mouton, who also average double figures in scoring, provide balanced scoring.

NCAA Tournament history: This is Maryland's 19th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Terrapins are 30-18 in their NCAA Tournament games and are making their second consecutive Final Four appearance.

Last Final Four trip: The Terrapins surrendered a 22-point, first-half lead and lost to Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke 95-84 in the national semifinals last season.

Coach: Gary Williams is in his 13th season at Maryland. He's 272-143 at Maryland and 479-271 in 24 seasons overall. In NCAA Tournament play, he's 21-11 overall and 17-8 at Maryland.

Star player: Juan Dixon. The senior shooting guard a three-time, first-team All-ACC selection, entered the NCAA East Regional leading the Terrapins in scoring with 19.9 points per game and ranked 15th in NCAA history with 324 steals.

Role player: Steve Blake. The 6-foot-3, 160-pound point guard gets the ball to Dixon and Baxter where the two can score. Blake entered the East Regional leading the nation in assists with 8.2 per game.

Fascinating tidbit: Over the past dozen years, the average grade-point average for Maryland's incoming freshmen increased from 3.0 in 1990 to 3.72 in 2001.

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