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Maryland 97, Kansas 88
Posted: Sunday March 31, 2002 12:50 AM
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ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Juan Dixon has Maryland on the brink of more history.

Dixon matched a career high with 33 points as the Terrapins advanced to the national championship game for the first time in school history, holding off a late rally for a 97-88 victory over Kansas.

Maryland (31-4) had trouble holding a 20-point lead but will meet Indiana in Monday's title game.

The Terrapins advanced to the Final Four for the first time in 2001 and have gone a step further this year. They blew a 22-point lead in the first half of their national semifinal last season before losing to Duke.

"If we were ever in that position again, a 20- or 22-point lead, we would find a way to win," Dixon said. "We grew a lot in the last year or so." Drew Nicholas nailed a 3-pointer that triggered an 8-2 run and put the Terrapins ahead for good at 31-28 with just over five minutes left in the first half. Dixon made two free throws to cap the burst and make it 36-30, and Maryland took a 44-37 cushion into halftime.

Nick Collison's hook brought Kansas (33-4) within 52-50 early in the second half before Maryland took complete control. The Terrapins started things with a basket by Ryan Randle.

That sparked an 18-5 spurt that was capped by five straight points from Tahj Holden and opened a 70-55 cushion with just over 10 minutes remaining. Dixon gave Maryland its biggest lead, 83-63, with a 3-pointer with just over six minutes left.

"I'm just trying to be a leader out there," Dixon said. "Kansas is a great team. They made us commit some turnovers." The Jayhawks made one final push, aided by the Terrapins' propensity to foul. Jeff Boschee's 3-pointer pulled Kansas within 87-82 with 74 seconds remaining.

Dixon answered with a baseline jumper to restore a seven-point margin. It was Maryland's first basket in nearly five minutes.

"He has been there all year," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "He's made the big shot, big play, whatever the situation." Drew Gooden nailed a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 92-88 with 20 seconds left, but Collison called a timeout Kansas did not have. Dixon made 1-of-2 free throws and Byron Mouton sank two to seal the victory.

"We tried to pick it up defensively, pressure them, try to force turnovers," Kansas guard Aaron Miles said. "We just couldn't come all the way back." Collison scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Boschee added 17 points for Kansas, which placed all five starters in double figures. The Jayhawks failed in a bid to reach the championship game for the first time since 1991.

The Jayhawks failed to get the monkey off coach Roy Williams' back. He has yet to win a national title in his 14 seasons in Lawrence and was unapologetic afterward.

"A lot of guys make fun of me this time of year because I'm crying," Roy Williams said. "Dadgum right, because these kids mean so much to me. It hurts not to be playing on Monday night. It just hurts because I am not going to get a chance to coach them again." Kansas used a fast start to get off to a 13-2 lead on a 3-pointer by Boschee with just over 16 minutes left in the first half. That prompted a timeout, and Maryland slowly got back into the game, thanks to Dixon.

With fellow senior Lonny Baxter limited to three minutes in the first half after picking up a pair of early fouls, Dixon put the team on his back. His 3-pointer with 7:21 to go gave Maryland its first lead at 26-25.

The physical play of Maryland took its toll on Kansas, which struggled against the Terrapins' size. Gooden managed just four points in the first half and finished with 15.

"They did a great job," Collison said. "(Chris) Wilcox set the tone by blocking someone's shot early. They played very well." Wilcox had his way against Collison and scored 18 points while the beefy Holden added 13 off the bench. That helped offset Baxter's limited production as he fouled out with just four points.

"I was really pleased just to get Lonny Baxter another game," Gary Williams said. "He was in foul trouble the whole way." Kansas also was hurt by star guard Kirk Hinrich's foul trouble. Hinrich scored 11 points but fouled out in the final minutes.

Mouton was the fourth Terrapin in double figures with 12 points as Maryland shot 46 percent (32-of-70). Steve Blake had a solid floor game with eight points and 11 assists while Wilcox had nine rebounds and Baxter seven.

Despite the magnitude of the victory, Dixon never celebrated and kept his game face through the final buzzer. He is looking to cap his career with the elusive national title.

"It will be a tough game," he said. "This is our year and hopefully we will come ready." .

 


 
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