Jan. 13, 2002
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA – Juan Dixon wasn’t about to let No. 4 Maryland lose to Georgia Tech.
When the Terrapins needed a crucial basket, he made it. When they desperately needed a big defensive stop, he came through.
Dixon scored 26 points and made a critical steal and pass in the final minute Sunday, helping Maryland escape with a 92-87 victory over the Yellow Jackets.
“Our effort was certainly worthy of winning,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said, “but we got beat by a great player who makes great plays in a lot of different ways. If Juan Dixon’s not making a 3, he’s making a great pass. At the end, he made that steal.”
Georgia Tech (7-10, 0-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) got as close as 68-67 on Halston Lane’s basket with 8:02 remaining and shaved the margin to two points on seven occasions in the final 4 minutes.
Maryland (13-2, 3-0) never relinquished the lead, however.
The Yellow Jackets had their best chance in the final minute after narrowing Maryland’s lead to 85-83. Robert Brooks picked off a bad pass into the lane from Lonny Baxter, and Georgia Tech broke the other way, looking to tie things up or go ahead with a 3-pointer.
Instead, the Yellow Jackets didn’t even get off a shot. Dixon came up from behind Tony Akins at midcourt and stole the ball back.
“I don’t think he saw me,” Dixon said. “I was baiting him, waiting for him to put the ball in his left hand.”
The Maryland guard wasn’t content with just making the steal. He spotted teammate Chris Wilcox alone under the basket, lobbing a perfect pass that Wilcox turned into a clinching dunk with 26.4 seconds to go.
“Fortunately, we have a great senior player in Juan Dixon,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose team had lost in its last two trips to Atlanta. “He’s as tough as any kid I’ve ever had. He refuses to lose. He just finds a way to win the game.”
Akins led Georgia Tech with 24 points but forgot to keep an eye on Dixon.
“He hustled,” Akins said. “I didn’t even know he was behind me. We had a three-on-two break and I really felt like we were going to score.”
The Terrapins built a 16-point lead less than 10 minutes into the game but struggled to hold off the Yellow Jackets, who were coming off a 104-79 loss to No. 2 Duke.
Georgia Tech might have pulled off the upset if not for a 25-of-40 performance at the foul line. Maryland, on the other hand, connected on 29-of-37 free throws – missing just two of 22 attempts in the second half.
“Shooting can be a fickle thing,” Hewitt said. “They’re trying to make those shots, believe me.”
Dixon hit four free throws in the final 10 seconds to finish off the Yellow Jackets, a fitting way to end a game in which he passed Tom McMillen for fifth place on Maryland’s career scoring list with 1,823 points.
Dixon made five 3-pointers, including one from nearly 30 feet with the shot clock running down late in the first half. The 6-foot-3 guard also had 10 rebounds to go along with four assists and three steals.
Akins also had five 3s. Four of his Georgia Tech teammates scored in double figures as the Yellow Jackets shot 55 percent in the second half.
Baxter scored 23 points for Maryland, drawing repeated fouls when he got the ball on the inside against the smaller Yellow Jackets. He made 11 of 14 free throws.
The Terrapins started the game as though they planned a repeat of Wednesday’s 112-79 rout of North Carolina. Having little trouble breaking Georgia Tech’s press, Maryland knocked down one easy shot after another. Baxter’s layup with 10:28 remaining had the Terps in command, 27-11.
Maryland led 48-35 at the half.
“Maybe the 13-point lead at halftime hurt us a bit,” Williams said. “Our players probably felt they had survived Georgia Tech’s rally and that it would not happen again. Obviously, Georgia Tech did not feel that way.”
The Terrapins managed to hold on, setting up a much-anticipated game at Duke on Thursday night.
“I’m trying to enjoy this one right now,” Dixon said. “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”