Saturday, March 24
Maryland 87, Stanford 73:It was an unbelievable moment as Gary Williams led the Terps to victory over a talented Stanford squad at The Pond in Anaheim. It's hard to believe that Maryland, after 17 unsuccessful tries in the NCAA tournament, is finally going to the Final Four. The first Final Four trip in school history will be sweet. Remember, Williams and his team were booed after a home loss to Florida State, leaving the Terps at 15-9. There were some fans chanting N-I-T, N-I-T. I wonder where those fans are now?
Lonny Baxter continued his tremendous tournament run. He struggled in the first game of the NCAAs, but he has been dominant since. He owned the three-second area against the Collins twins (Jason and Jarron), scoring 24 big points. Baxter also cleaned the glass; he will surely earn a spot on my All-Solid Gold Sweet 16 team.
Maryland's offensive execution was impressive. Human assist machine Steve Blake had an outstanding game, scoring 15 points while dishing seven assists. The orchestra leader received help from his backcourt mate, Juan Dixon. Dixon's quickness gave Stanford trouble, as he finished with 17 points.
The Terps played solid defense, taking the Cardinal out of their offense in the first half, which helped Maryland build a 10-point lead. When Stanford made an early second half run, Baxter and company countered with a 9-0 spurt that just about ended the hopes of Mike Montgomery's club. The pace and tempo of the game was controlled by Williams' team; it was quick and clearly favored Maryland. Casey Jacobsen was held in check as well.
This Maryland team reminds me of Kansas in 1988. Danny Manning and the Miracles were 12-8 before making their charge to cut down the nets at the Final Four. Could the Terps be doing the same thing, coming on strong at the right time?
This is Maryland's greatest win ever, earning a Final Four trip by beating Stanford on the West Coast. It was a great season for Montgomery's squad, but in the end, Baxter, Dixon, Blake and Terence Morris were too much for the Cardinal.
Duke 79, USC 69: With Saturday's win over USC, the Blue Devils are going to the Final Four for the ninth time in 16 years. What an achievement! Duke has been a regular at the Final Four under
The Blue Devils had to fight hard to earn this one. Once again, it was the 1-2 punch of Jason Williams and Shane Battier coming through. They combined for 58 points against UCLA in the regional semifinal and 48 against a athletic and talented USC squad.
Williams had 28 big ones to go with his 34 against UCLA. He struggled at one point, missing 10 straight shots from the floor. Like all good players, he kept working at it, finally hitting a big trifecta and several driving layups.
Other keys for Duke included solid free throw shooting (14 of 15) and diaper dandy Chris Duhon's pair of trifectas in crunch time. Those threes shut off USC's momentum. The Blue Devils were competitive on the boards against the big Trojan frontline of Sam Clancy, David Bluthenthal and Brian Scalabrine.
Duke would love to repeat the success of 1992, cutting down the nets in Minneapolis. Next up is Duke-Maryland IV...let's hope it is as good as the first three match-ups were!