SYRACUSE, New York (Ticker) -- Maryland has a different rematch on tap, and it will take it.
Juan Dixon led four players in double figures with 19 points as the top-seeded Terrapins advanced to the East Region final with a 78-68 victory over No. 4 Kentucky.
Maryland (29-4) advanced to meet No. 2 seed Connecticut in the final on Sunday. Many had expected the Terrapins to eventually meet Duke in the championship game to reprise their Atlantic Coast Conference wars. Instead, they will get another shot at the Huskies, whom they defeated, 77-65, on December 3.
"It's very exciting to have a chance to get back to the Final Four," Maryland point guard Steve Blake said. "It's a benefit (having played Connecticut). I think we'll know a lot going into this game." A 3-pointer by Drew Nicholas gave Maryland the lead for good at 56-53 just past the midway point of the second half. Chris Wilcox added two free throws for a five-point cushion.
The lead was 68-63 for the Terrapins when Kentucky (22-10) failed on a pair of golden opportunities to cut into the margin. Keith Bogans missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Tayshaun Prince pulled up for a 3-pointer on a fast break but came up short.
Baxter made two free throws with 3:31 left for a seven-point cushion.
"We took enough time off the clock and we were able to play good defense," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We only fouled once in the final 3:30. If you don't foul and stop the clock, you have a great chance to win." The Wildcats made one final charge when Chuck Hayes' layup with just under two minutes left cut the deficit to 70-65. Kentucky had a 2-on-1 break on its next possession, but Prince threw away the ball.
"We had a couple of fast-break opportunities where we turned the ball over," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "That took the wind out of our sails." Dixon made four free throws and Byron Mouton added a pair in the final minute to seal the win. The Wildcats had just two baskets in the final five minutes.
Lonny Baxter scored 16 points and Chris Wilcox added 15 as the Terrapins' frontcourt took command in the second half. Baxter scored 14 points after halftime.
"At halftime, coach told us to pound the ball inside," Wilcox said. "The guards did a good job of feeding it to us." Kentucky jumped out to an 8-2 lead early as Bogans drilled his first two 3-pointers. Maryland quickly caught up and grabbed a 39-33 halftime edge on Wilcox' dunk with six seconds to go.
The Wildcats fought back and a 3-pointer by Prince forged a 45-45 tie with 16:11 left. Marquis Estill's two foul shots provided the game's final tie at 53-53 with 10:09 left.
After Nicholas' 3-pointer, the frontcourt did all the damage as Wilcox, Baxter and Byron Mouton combined for the next 14 points for Maryland. Wilcox and Baxter each had six points.
Prince concluded his brilliant career with 17 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Bogans netted 15 points and Estill came off the bench for 12.
"They did a pretty good job of playing defense," Prince said. "Other (teams) double-teamed me more. They were straight up until I had the opportunity to shoot." But Estill and Hayes struggled inside against the powerful play of Baxter and Wilcox.
Estill fouled out taking turns against Maryland's two big men and Baxter and Wilcox took advantage by combining to convert 11-of-12 foul shots.
"I was impressed with their composure down the stretch and making their free throws," Smith said. "It's a sign of a poised, mature veteran team." Maryland is in a regional final for the fourth time in school history. The Terrapins advanced this far in 1973 and 1975 as well as last year but were extremely loose and business-like about doing what few teams before them have.
"It's a veteran team," said Williams, summing up the attitude of his team. "We're not surprised when we win. We go in thinking we'll win. When we do, we move on to the next game." Maryland converted 21-of-24 foul shots while Kentucky was just 11-of-17. The Terrapins also forced 17 turnovers.