ANAHEIM, California (Ticker) -- Move over, Lefty.
With Lonny Baxter taking over the game early in the second half, Maryland finally reached the "Elite Eight" of the NCAA Tournament under Gary Williams, posting a 76-66 victory over Georgetown in a West Region semifinal game at The Pond.
Baxter scored 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds as the Terrapins won the "Battle of the Beltway" to advance to Saturday's regional final against either top-seeded Stanford or Cincinnati at the Arrowhead Pond.
"I just saw the whole game," Baxter said. "I was aggressive to the hole and I attacked as strongly as I could." After four bitter losses in the "Sweet 16", Williams finally joined Lefty Driesell as the only coaches to take Maryland (24-10) to a regional final. Driesell guided the Terrapins to "Elite Eight" appearances in 1973 and 1975, but never got to the Final Four.
"It was difficult to play Georgetown because they trap a lot and try to mess up your timing," said Williams, who had been 0-6 in the regional semifinals, including two losses at Boston College. "We had to make our plays like we've done all year." Ironically, the Terrapins faced their former coach on Saturday, when they defeated Georgia State, 79-60, to advance to the regional semifinals.
"It's a great feeling (going to the "Elite Eight")," Maryland guard Steve Blake said. "In my basketball career, it's definitely the best. It's a special feeling for me, my teammates and the coaches. We've worked real hard to get here." After Kansas beat Syracuse on Sunday to reach the "Sweet 16" for the first time since 1997, Jayhawks coach Roy Williams brought a stuffed animal to the postgame press conference, joking that he finally got the "monkey" off his back.
But Baxter and company helped Gary Williams get a gorilla off his. It marks Williams' first "Elite Eight" appearance in a 23-year coaching career, including the past 12 at Maryland.
"It's amazing the things he (Baxter) can do," Blake said. "He's the reason I look good. He makes shots only he can make. He's strong, athletic, big. It's a pleasure for me being able to play with him." The Terrapins had trouble attacking Georgetown's zone in the first half, but Maryland finished the half with a 7-0 spurt to grab a 38-36 halftime lead it never relinquished.
Baxter was able to get inside in the second half, when foul trouble began to hurt the Hoyas. Georgetown center Ruben Boumtje Boumtje fouled out without scoring.
"In our league (Atlantic Coast Conference), I play against big guys all the time," Baxter said. "I wasn't worried about anything. I came out and played my game." "I've been watching Lonny since he was in the 10th grade," Georgetown coach Craig Esherick added. "He is an explosive player. He played one of the best games of his life tonight, which says a lot for him. Lonny stepped up tonight." After falling behind, 54-45, Georgetown closed to 67-62 on Demetrius Hunter's 3-pointer with 3:14 remaining and had a chance to get closer. But Tahj Holden blocked Mike Sweetney's jumper in the lane and Danny Miller's layup made it 69-62 with 2:29 left. The Hoyas got no closer than 72-66 on Braswell's 3-pointer with 31 seconds to go.
Juan Dixon scored 13 points and Holden added 10 off the bench for the Terrapins, who shot only 40 percent (25-of-62) from the field but held the Hoyas to 31 percent (20-of-65).
Kevin Braswell had 17 points for Georgetown (25-8), which led by as many as five on two occasions in the first half. The Hoyas were looking to reach the "Elite Eight" for the first time since 1996.
Located just 12 miles apart, Maryland and Georgetown traveled 3,000 miles to face each other for the first time since the Terrapins posted an 84-83 overtime victory in 1993. The schools played every year from 1948-80.
The second meeting between the District of Columbia rivals in 21 years was a physical battle from the start with Georgetown's defense dicating the early tempo.
Maryland had dificulty attacking the Hoyas' 3-2 zone and Georgetown got inside early, making 12-of-15 free throws in the first half. The Hoyas also made four 3-pointers in the opening 20 minutes, taking a 25-20 lead on Sweetney's follow shot with 6:21 left in the half.
But Maryland stopped the penetration by switching to a zone. The Terrapins tied it on Mike Mardesich's turnaround jumper with 1:19 left and took a 38-36 lead on Byron Mouton's runner at the buzzer.
"The zone took away our momentumn," Esherick said. "His (Williams') bothered us. I was not dissatisfied by the way our guys played. We battled the entire game. They forced us to do things we're not comfortable doing." Hunter scored 11 points and Sweetney and Lee Scruggs added 10 apiece for the Hoyas, who shot just 28 percent (10-of-36) in the second half. Georgetown attemped 30 3-pointers -- hitting eight -- and made just six baskets inside the arc over the final 20 minutes.
"They had a lot of rebounds and a lot of second-chance points," Scruggs said. "That killed us. The hurt is real deep. There were a lot of tears. Still, it was a great season." .