First Final four brings familiar collapse for Maryland
Updated: Saturday March 31, 2001 11:52 PM
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Maryland's initial foray into the strange new world known as the Final Four ended with an all too familiar loss.
Playing for the right to advance to the NCAA championship game, the Terrapins bolted to 22-point lead against Duke on Saturday night.
It didn't hold up. Getting only three points from Juan Dixon in the second half and forced to play for more than 12 minutes without foul-laden senior Terence Morris, the Terrapins again wilted against Duke and were sent packing with a 95-84 defeat.
"I'm not ashamed," Dixon said. "We played hard and we played well. We just didn't play well enough."
During its opening surge, Maryland played so well it seemed as if there was no way the top-ranked Blue Devils could come back. But when the Terrapins play Duke, stuff happens.
This game was no exception.
"People can think what they want to think," Dixon said. "But we let Duke back in the game. It's funny how we started out so strong, then we let the game slip like that."
Up 39-17 with just over 13 minutes elapsed, the Terrapins let the lead dwindle to 11 at halftime. It was 46-38 before Dixon drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cap his 16-point half.
But the hot-and-cold shooting guard was 1-for-8 in the second half.
"We didn't get good looks for Juan in the second half," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Some of that was Duke. They took away our transition offense."
Dixon's only basket after halftime was a 3-pointer that gave Maryland a 69-62 lead with 10:35 left. The advantage didn't last, but that's really nothing new when the Terrapins play Duke.
"We knew it was going to be a fight, no matter what the score was," senior center Mike Mardesich said. "If we were in the same position, we would've fought back too."
The setting was the Metrodome, although as Maryland's lead disintegrated, many in the crowd of 45,406 probably thought back to what happened on Jan. 27 at Cole Field House. That's when Duke made up a 10-point deficit in the final 54 seconds of regulation en route to a 98-96 overtime win.
Maryland (25-11) played Duke four times this season, losing three. The Terrapins will remember the three losses more than the victory. The first defeat was the 98-96 debacle and the second came in the ACC tournament semifinals.
The last, by far the most bitter, ended what was the finest season in the history of the Maryland basketball program.
"It really hurts to lose," Williams said. "But this team proved a lot of things this year."
Playing in what turned out to be his final college game, Morris saw limited playing time because of foul trouble. He missed most of the second half after being called for his fourth foul on Duke's first possession.
"It really hurt us when I came out of the game," Morris said.
When he was in, the 6-foot-9 forward played with a raw emotion that he rarely displayed during his four-year stay at Maryland.
Thrust back into the lineup with seven minutes left, the senior forward scored inside to put Maryland up 74-73. Duke answered with a basket, and Morris immediately challenged Shane Battier with a drive that resulted in another two points.
He tried it again on the Terrapins' next possession, got fouled and yelled an expletive after he missed the first of two shots.
It all unraveled after that for Maryland, which made only 12 of 35 shots in the second half while being outscored 57-35.
"Hopefully, I can learn from this situation so it doesn't happen again," Dixon said.