With Maryland sagging against the ropes, Dixon clanged a three-point attempt, and suddenly Kansas had the ball, but this time Williams had an entirely unexpected reaction. "Take the next one!" he encouraged his star from the sideline. Dixon nodded. Two years ago he sank a baseline runner at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C., to beat Illinois, a shot the coaching staff considers to be the moment Dixon became the Terps' leader. Sure enough, after a defensive stop, he hit the same baseline runner the next time down the court. Game over.
In Monday's title game, two of Maryland's most important plays wouldn't even make it into the box score, and both came courtesy of Mouton. Clinging to a 53-49 lead late in the second half, Terps guard Steve Blake, suffering through his worst performance of the year, missed a three-pointer, only to have Mouton go after the loose-ball rebound and, while falling over the baseline, throw a Hail Mary pass back to Blake at midcourt. "I just wanted someone on my team to have a chance to get it," said Mouton, who struck again a minute later, lunging wildly to tip Baxter's missed free throw to Dixon. In both cases the Terps scored immediately. "Sick plays. Just sick," Indiana's Fife would moan afterward. "But that's Mouton's game. They run nothing for him on offense, so he digs for everything."
Second chances. They were the story of the game, and so much more for Maryland and its hard-driving, long-suffering coach. To understand Williams's newfound equanimity, it's best not to gaze at his one-man sideline show. Instead, you have to peer under that calcified shell and hope to catch a fleeting glimpse as he sheds his $300 Italian loafers and climbs into his grandson's playpen. In much the same way that Williams seized a second chance with his family, he and his Terrapins redeemed themselves on Monday, grabbing hold of the championship denied them by last year's inglorious Final Four exit.
So thank you, Coach, and thank you, Maryland, for reminding us once again: Do-overs are allowed, in life and in basketball.