Mighty Maryland!! Terps Defeat Hoosiers, 64-52, To Win National Championship
April 1, 2002
By JIM O'CONNELL
ATLANTA -- A star who stepped up and a tightly wound coach - a match made in Maryland, and good enough to turn the Terrapins into national champions.
With All-American guard Juan Dixon snapping out of a scoring drought just in time, Maryland ended Indiana's magical tournament run with a 64-52 victory Monday night.
This was the Terrapins' first appearance in a national championship game and the senior-laden lineup came through over the final 9:42, pulling away from the Hoosiers to become the fourth straight No. 1 seed to win it all.
Coach Gary Williams guided his alma mater from the depths of probation 13 years ago to the pinnacle of college basketball. He let his intense demeanor melt long enough to celebrate with his team, which featured four players who had started at least 100 games in their careers.
"We had to really grind it," he said. "It took us a good 25 minutes before we really ran our offense. Not many coaches get a chance to coach three great seniors like this. It was a thrill for me to watch these guys work hard and get their reward."
Dixon scored at least 27 points in four of the first five tournament games, including 33 in the semifinal win over fellow top seed Kansas. He started the title game at that pace, scoring 11 points in the opening 10 minutes. He didn't score again for 20 minutes.
When he hit a 3-pointer with 9:42 to play, it gave Maryland (32-4) the lead for good at 45-44 and the Terrapins made sure even a small lead was safe this time.
"I was trying to be patient," he said. "I was trying to let the game come to me. I hit a big shot."
Dixon finished with 18 points and he and fellow senior Lonny Baxter combined for all the points in the 9-2 run that Dixon started with the 3 and Baxter ended with a dunk that made it 51-46 with 7:22 to play.
"It's like I'm dreaming right now because I'm part of a national championship team," Dixon said. "A lot of people at home counted me out at home. But I got better each year."
Indiana (25-12), which upset top-seeded Duke then shocked second-seeded Oklahoma in the semifinals, just couldn't come up with another stunner.
The team that had the country almost forgetting about Bob Knight, again used the 3-point shot as its main weapon.
The Hoosiers, who were 23-for-32 from behind the arc in the regional final against Kent State and Oklahoma, made eight of their first 12 Monday night. When Jared Jeffries' layup was goaltended with 9:53 left, Indiana had its only lead of the game, 44-42.
When Dixon and Baxter, who finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds, stepped up, the long shots stopped falling. Indiana made just two of its 11 shots from behind the arc and its dream of being the first No. 5 seed to win a national championship started to fade.
Kyle Hornsby led Indiana with 14 points and Dane Fife added 11. Jeffries, the Big Ten's player of the year, finished with eight points on 4-for-11 shooting. The Hoosiers finished 20-for-58 from the field (34.5 percent), the first time in the tournament they shot below 50 percent.
The Terrapins, who won 19 of their last 20 games, again were big on the boards, finishing with a 42-31 rebound advantage.
"They were definitely physical," Jeffries said. "They did a good job of preparing for us on defense."
Maryland was among the country's highest scoring teams at 85 points per game, but its third-lowest total of the season was good enough to make it the 33rd school to win the national championship and the second straight from the Atlantic Coast Conference following Duke last season.
The loss was the first for Indiana in six national championship game appearances. The last three titles - 1976, 1981 and 1987 - were won under Knight, who was fired two years ago for violating a zero-tolerance policy. Mike Davis, one of his assistants, was selected to succeed him and in just his second season he almost won it all.
Dixon didn't miss a shot in the first half, going 4-for-4 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free throw line. His last shot came with 10:02 left and the baseline jumper gave the Terrapins a 21-11 lead.
Indiana's first 14 points came on four 3-pointers, two by Coverdale, and two free throws. The Hoosiers couldn't get a shot off in the paint and had to settle for outside shots.
After Drew Nicholas made two free throws to give Maryland a 25-16 lead with 7:59 left, the Terrapins missed eight straight shots, but Indiana was unable to take advantage of the cold spell and only trimmed two points off the lead.
Coverdale's drive at the buzzer brought the Hoosiers within 31-25.