Terps' title eclipses heartbreak
- Published on Monday, 14 March 2011 13:14
By Dan Patrick
May 8, 2002
At the conclusion of Monday night's NCAA final, I couldn't help but think -- somehow, some way, someone will blame Bob Knight for the Hoosiers' loss to Maryland. There, now that I've gotten the Knight reference out of the way ... Indiana had a great run, but the leadership and experience of the Terps won out 64-52 in a game where nerves and lack of preparation clearly got the better of both teams. After quality semifinal matchups, Monday night's final was difficult to watch. I found myself rooting for somebody to make a shot ... please.
The Hoosiers, clearly out-manned, kept things close with 3-pointers and decent defensive play. Star forward Jared Jeffries was rendered a non-factor with just eight points. It's tough to lose the title game when you don't play as well as you played to get there. In a day and age when marquee players rarely hang around past their sophomore year, Maryland coach Gary Williams had the benefit of his pro-caliber stars sticking around. Seniors Lonny Baxter (15 points, 14 rebounds, threee blocks) and All-American guard Juan Dixon (18 points on economical 6-of-9 shooting, five steals) led the Terps to their first national championship.
Neither Dixon nor Williams is a stranger to adversity, so you can't help but root for them. The ninth coach in NCAA history to win a championship at his alma mater, Williams rescued this program from the depths of degradation 13 years ago. And at 6-foot-3, 165 pounds, the small-framed Dixon came up with big baskets when Maryland most needed them. With the Terps down by two midway through the second half -- Indiana's only lead of the game -- Dixon hit a huge 3-pointer, which seemed to deflate the Hoosiers. A minute later, with Maryland still clinging to a one-point lead, Dixon scored on a tough fade-away jumper with Dane Fife in his face. No matter what Indiana did, Dixon had an answer.
The Terps have endured some of the greatest heartbreaks in recent college hoops history. Most notable is last season's 95-84 semifinal loss to Duke (a game they led by 22 points). Maryland needed this win to get past that loss. We needed this win to get past that loss. Now, every time Williams is interviewed, the first question will no longer be, "What happened in that loss to Duke?" That will be saved for second, right behind, "How does it feel to win a national championship?" If it's true that through loss comes a greater understanding of what's to be attained, this Maryland team can fully appreciate the value of this national championship.
May 8, 2002