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MARCH MADNESS / NCAA TOURNAMENT | WEST AT BOISE, IDAHO

Maryland Floors Georgia State With Lefty-Righty Combination

March 18, 2001|DIANE PUCIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BOISE, Idaho — Juan Dixon, Maryland's star guard, was eight years old when Len Bias died and Lefty Driesell was being run out of town.

Shernard Long, Georgia State's star guard, was not interested in Driesell's ancient history at Maryland. It was 15 years ago when Driesell left the Terrapins. Put it in the history books and not on the basketball court.

Maryland, the No. 3-seeded team, beat Driesell-coached Georgia State, the No. 11-seeded team, 79-60, Saturday in the second round of the NCAA West Regionals. This was about the inside strength and depth of Maryland, about how the big team from the Atlantic Coast Conference had too much of both for the upstarts from Atlanta.

So it will be Maryland against Georgetown at the Arrowhead Pond on Thursday in the Sweet 16. Georgetown, the No. 10-seeded team, beat Hampton, 76-57.

On the line for the Terrapins (23-10) Saturday was the continuation of a realistic journey to the Final Four. On the line for the Panthers (29-5) was the continuation of a quest for national respect. Not on the line was a melodramatic clash of old news, sweet redemption or misty nostalgic feelings about an episode from the 1980s. Not even for Driesell. Especially not for Driesell.

"Maryland don't mean anything to me," Driesell said. The 69-year-old coach had built Maryland into a national power over 17 seasons before being forced to leave in 1986 after the drug-induced death of Bias and subsequent disclosures of the academic failings of some players.

But despite a big buildup of Driesell versus Maryland, the coach never showed a bit of angst. "I didn't have any emotions at all," Driesell said. "I was trying to win a basketball game. I'm not emotionally attached to Maryland."

As far as the basketball game was concerned the Panthers, who had upset Wisconsin in the first round, were tied with Maryland, 47-47, with 14:31 left in the game. And then it all fell apart.

In the next six minutes, the Terrapins feasted on second-chance baskets, on fast break layups, on uncontested jump shots. They put together a 20-5 run, had a 67-52 lead with 8:41 left and got to relax a little and smile a lot.

Four Maryland players scored in double figures, led by the 19 points from burly center Lonny Baxter. And Baxter scored that many while missing six of 11 free throws. At 6 feet 8 and 260 pounds, Baxter weighed 30 pounds more than any of the Panthers who tried to play inside with him. Baxter also had 14 rebounds.

"It was just a matter of time before we wore them down," Dixon said. "They only go four or five deep so we just kept putting pressure on them and banged them inside. We were the bigger team and we were going to win the game inside."

It took the Terrapins a half to figure out that if they stopped Long, then the win might come easily. Long had 16 first-half points, mostly on jump shots. Long had only four points in the second half and no other Panther could score much.

Danny Miller did most of the defending against Long in the second half. "I wanted to make every shot he took as difficult as possible," Miller said.

A month ago it was unreasonable to think Maryland could reach the Sweet 16. After the Terrapins had blown a 10-point lead in the final minute then lost to Duke in overtime, they lost four of their next five games. Dick Vitale walked past Maryland Coach Gary Williams after that Duke loss and said, "See you in the NIT baby." It was a joke. Kind of.

"It could have gone either way," Williams said. "But these kids proved they don't quit."

This is the fifth trip to the Sweet 16 for Maryland in the last eight years. The Terrapins haven't gotten any farther, though, since 1975. When Driesell was coach.

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