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Juan Out of Four Not Bad vs. Duke

January 17, 2002|Robyn Norwood

They went four rounds last season, Duke and Maryland, trading punches all the way to the Final Four.

Duke won three times, frustrating the Terrapins at almost every turn.

Juan Dixon won the other.

The Blue Devils took the overtime thriller at Cole Field House, coming from 10 points behind in the final minute of regulation to beat Maryland by two after Jason Williams helped force overtime by scoring eight points in 13 seconds.

In the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Duke beat Maryland by two on Nate James' tip-in of Williams' miss with 1.3 seconds left.

Most famously, Duke came from an astounding 22 points behind in a national semifinal to win by 11 and go on to defeat Arizona for the national championship two days later. (That one hurt so badly Maryland Coach Gary Williams didn't even watch the tape until this season.)

Maryland's only victory came at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Terrapins have beaten Duke two years in a row and Dixon has made a habit of making himself at home.

Dixon will try to make it one more memorable night in his final visit to Cameron tonight as the third-ranked Terrapins meet No. 1 Duke for the first time this season.

Dixon scored 28 points and had five steals in Maryland's 91-80 victory last season.

The season before, he scored 31 at Cameron, making 14 of 19 shots, and added three steals in another Maryland victory.

Both times, he outplayed Williams on his home court.

"I knew in previous years that I had to feed off the crowd to play well, and we definitely did that as a team," Dixon said. "It is a lot of fun to play down there."

Playing in the same conference as Williams, the presumed national player of the year, Dixon has to play second fiddle, as he should. (He's second in scoring at 19.3 points a game to Williams' 21.0)

Once known more for overcoming an unimaginable family tragedy--both parents died of AIDS contracted by injecting drugs with dirty needles--he is now better known for his game.

"I love Juan Dixon," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I think during his four years he has been one of the truly remarkable players in our conference. He's a warrior, a big-time player. I love the way he plays and competes."

Georgia Tech got a taste of that Sunday, when the Yellow Jackets rallied, making a steal that gave them the chance to try to tie the score in the final minute.

But as Tony Akins dribbled near halfcourt, Dixon displayed the savvy that has made him the ACC steals leader three seasons in a row, baiting Akins into switching to his left hand before stealing the ball from behind.

The athletic Chris Wilcox sprinted out and Dixon hit him with a long alley-oop pass for a dunk that helped seal the victory.

"We don't win that game without Juan Dixon," said Williams, the Maryland coach. "It's not just his offense. I think he is one of the best players I've ever coached in terms of anticipating passes, getting into passing lanes."

The Duke players know all about Dixon's thievery.

Most of all, they don't want to let him steal another one from them at home.

It's Over

Michigan State's run has come to an end.

The 53-game home-court winning streak fell against Wisconsin Saturday.

The 72 weeks in the top 25 ended too.

The Spartans are 1-3 in the Big Ten after a victory over Purdue on Wednesday, making a fifth consecutive conference title an extreme longshot.

And after three consecutive Final Fours, the Spartans (10-7) will have to scramble to make the NCAA tournament this season.

It might seem too much to blame a freshman, but guard Kelvin Torbert has not been what the Spartans expected.

The latest "Flintstone" to play for Michigan State, Torbert was considered perhaps the top high school player in the country last season--with competition from Dajuan Wagner of Memphis. But Torbert isn't even among the top five freshman scorers in the Big Ten, averaging only nine points.

Coach Tom Izzo even benched him to start the second half against Indiana, and is openly asking Torbert to be more aggressive.

Michigan State's problems started before Torbert arrived, though, with the early departures of freshman Zach Randolph and sophomore Jason Richardson to the NBA. The Spartans also lost five seniors, among them stalwarts Charlie Bell and Andre Hutson.

It's no surprise the Spartans will have to wait till next year.

One person, though, seemed particularly unprepared.

Izzo's 7-year-old daughter, Raquel, was in tears after Michigan State lost at home.

"She wasn't old enough to remember what a loss was," Izzo told the Detroit Free Press.

The Spartans' last loss in the Breslin Center: March 1, 1998.

And Bear in Mind ...

After losing point guard Kenny Satterfield early to the NBA, Cincinnati entered the season unranked for only the second time in 10 years.

But the Bearcats have risen to No. 7 on the strength of a 16-game winning streak, a group of veterans, and most of all, guard Steve Logan.

Logan started his career as a point guard, then nearly transferred after Satterfield beat him out for the position.

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