ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Juan Dixon has taken his game to new levels, and that has taken Maryland to a different level.
Dixon scored 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting as the Terrapins claimed their first national title by winning a defensive struggle, 64-52 over Indiana.
Maryland (32-4) had endured years in the shadows of Atlantic Coast Conference rivals Duke and North Carolina despite an illustrious list of players like Len Elmore, Buck Williams, John Lucas, Len Bias and Joe Smith. But it was Dixon, the skinny 6-3 Baltimore native, who helped deliver an elusive national title.
Indiana (25-12) had taken its first lead of the game at 44-42 on a basket by Jared Jeffries and had plenty of momentum.
Dixon never hesitated in answering with a long 3-pointer with 9:43 remaining that put Maryland ahead for good.
"Steve Blake made a great play," Dixon said. "He broke a trap. I had the open look. I made a tough shot and we were able to get the lead back." He nailed a long fadeaway jumper over Dane Fife for a 49-46 lead with 8:10 left. Dixon made his first four shots and was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
"You can't have the fear of failure," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Juan has never backed down from a big shot." Lonny Baxter dunked and Tahj Holden made two free throws to cap the 11-2 run that opened a 53-46 advantage with just over five minutes remaining. The Hoosiers were held to one basket in a five-minute span.
Baxter, a senior whose number was retired with Dixon's, collected 15 points and 14 rebounds. Chris Wilcox added 10 and seven and helped stifle Jeffries for the Terrapins, who trailed for just 12 seconds.
"It's an amazing thing to watch Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter over the last four years," Williams said. "These guys got to the level of two of the best players in the country." Jeffries, Indiana's leading scorer, finished with just eight points and seven rebounds. He had a shot blocked early by Baxter, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
"They were definitely physical down low," Jeffries said. "It's just a matter of putting the ball in the basket. We had the ball go in and out." Williams became the first alumnus to coach his school to the national title since Norm Sloan at North Carolina State in 1974.
Williams saw his first Final Four on the Maryland campus as an undergraduate in 1966, watching Texas Western defeat Kentucky in an historic championship. He finally realized his dream of bringing home the title, 13 years after returning to a school that was on probation.
"It's special, there were so many great teams," Williams said. "When Lefty (Driesell) was coaching, the rules were different. They were probably the second- or third-best team in the country and did not go to the NCAA Tournament. This is the result of a lot of hard work." Dixon demonstrated his focus early, nailing his first shot -- a 3-pointer -- for a 9-5 lead. His steal and layup helped the Terrapins open their largest lead at 19-8 with 11:12 remaining in the first half.
Ryan Randle's basket gave Maryland a 29-18 cushion with 1:42 left before halftime, but the Hoosiers used a late push and got within 31-25 at halftime on Tom Coverdale's bank shot.
Indiana relied on the 3-pointer to get this far and found the range early in the second half. Fife drilled a pair of 3-pointers around a basket by Baxter to pull the Hoosiers within 37-33.
Kyle Hornsby's 3-pointer triggered seven straight points that gave Indiana its only lead at 42-40 on a tip-in by Jeff Newton with 11:27 remaining. Dixon came through with his answer and the Hoosiers had little response.
"We usually get all the loose balls," Indiana coach Mike Davis said. "Tonight, they got all the loose balls. They were just quicker than we were." Maryland's size had an impact at both ends of the court as it held a 42-31 rebounding edge. The Hoosiers shot just 34.5 percent (20-of-58), despite making 10 3-pointers.
"I thought their inside defense was great," Coverdale said. "They didn't have to double-team that much, we haven't seen that much." Hornsby led Indiana with 14 points and Fife netted 11. But Jeffries was not the only Hoosier to struggle as Coverdale, playing on a severely sprained ankle, made just 3-of-11 shots for eight points.
Indiana was denied its sixth national title and failed to become the first No. 5 seed to win the championship. The Hoosiers' propensity for outside shots resulted in a huge disparity at the foul line, where they went just 2-of-7 attempts -- an all-time low for free throws made in an NCAA title game.
Maryland converted 20-of-28 attempts.
Williams improved his career mark against Indiana to 1-7 as Maryland won for the first time in five meetings with Indiana. He became the eighth coach in the last nine title games to earn his first championship.