Maryland's Williams ends Final Four drought, seeks title
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Gary Williams was still yelling when Maryland was up by 14 points against Stanford with 20 seconds remaining.
He didn't stop until the final buzzer signaled the Terrapins' 87-73 victory over the top-seeded Cardinal in Saturday's West Regional championship.
For the first time since Maryland began playing basketball in 1904, the Terps are going to the Final Four. It will be Williams' first trip, too, in 23 years of coaching, including the last 12 at Maryland.
"We were just desperate to make the Final Four, and get coach there for the first time," said Lonny Baxter, who had 24 points and was named the regional's most outstanding player.
"We aren't satisfied. We want to go on and win a national championship," he said. Third-seeded Maryland (25-10) will play Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke (33-4) in the national semifinals Saturday in Minneapolis.
It'll be their fourth meeting this season. Duke won two of the three games against Maryland by two points each, while Maryland's victory was by 11.
In January, the Terps blew a 10-point lead in the last minute against Duke at home. Then they lost five of six games, and it seemed the NCAA tournament was out of reach.
"I didn't know what to expect when we went through the tough times," Williams said. "Watching these players react to that situation impressed me because they could have gone in a different direction, but they actually got closer when things got tough."
While the Terps were losing, Williams realized it wasn't because players were being selfish and one or two of them were trying to score all the points.
"Certain guys were trying to do too much, instead of just relying on our offense or relying on the other players," he said. "Once we just agreed on that, we were fine."
Since their loss at home to Florida State on Feb. 14 -- their fifth defeat in six games -- the Terps are 10-1.
"The big thing was, we stayed together," guard Steve Blake said. "A lot of guys shot extra after and before practice. We trusted each other."
And they trusted Williams, even as a rising chorus of critics called for his ouster. Although he brought five teams to the final 16 in eight years, Williams' failure to get to the Final Four was a sin in ACC territory.
"A lot of teams could have folded, but we really put it together," reserve Mike Mardesich said. "A couple of weeks ago, people wanted coach's job. We made a statement on the court."
Using its superior speed and solid play from its deep bench, Maryland controlled the entire game against Stanford.
The Terps shot more than 58 percent, including hitting nine 3-pointers.
Reserve Tahj Holden added 14 points and Terence Morris had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Maryland, whose bench outscored Stanford's reserves 22-8.
"They knew they had the confidence that was necessary to beat a team as good as Stanford, and that was the key thing," Williams said. "They just made up their minds as we moved through the tournament that we were going to be a tough out."