Date story published: Saturday, March 23, 2002
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Kentucky cemented its claim on redemption in this NCAA Tournament last night.
But the problem of beating No. 1 seed Maryland required more than a gutty effort.
With a more consistent inside attack, the Terps outlasted UK 78-68 to advance to Sunday's East Regional finals.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Kentucky contained All-American Juan Dixon. But UK reserve J.P. Blevins proved correct when he said Thursday that the Wildcats needed to stop more than Dixon.
"He's one of them," Blevins said of Maryland's threats. "And there's four others."
One of those others, all-Atlantic Coast Conference center Lonny Baxter, powered Maryland to victory. He scored 14 of his 16 points in a second half that saw the Terps never trail but never put away Kentucky.
"They're a great team," Dixon said of UK. "Those guys are fighters. I knew they wouldn't go away."
The Cats, who did not trail by more than seven points until the final minute, got as close as 70-65 with 1:53 left.
But back-to-back turnovers (a Jules Camara walk and a wayward Tayshaun Prince pass on the fast break) stalled the rally.
UK scored only two baskets in the final 6:11 as Maryland won a school-record 29th victory. The Terps will play Connecticut, which beat Southern Illinois 71-59 in the first semifinal, for a spot in the Final Four.
Prince led UK with 17 points. Keith Bogans added 15.
Kentucky, which distanced itself from a problem-filled regular season in this tournament, finished with a 22-10 record.
The Cats conceded that the better team won.
"They responded to everything we had tonight," Blevins said. "They were great, the better team."
Maryland shook off a fast Kentucky start to lead much of the first half. But UK, which rode Bogans early, stayed within striking distance.
Continuing his personal revival this post-season, Bogans got off to a blazing start. He hit back-to-back three-pointers early, then fed freshman Chuck Hayes for a layup within the first five minutes.
UK twice led by six points early as Bogans scored nine points by the 13:25 mark.
Maryland, which had nine first-half turnovers, rallied with its inside-outside attack. Dixon's 11 first-half points included three three-pointers. Chris Wilcox and Tahj Holden did the damage inside.
"In the first half, their guards killed us," Camara said. "In the second half, their big men killed us."
Wilcox supplied an exclamation point to a half that saw Maryland lead the final 7:54.
After a timeout with 33.1 seconds left, he received a pass after setting a screen at the key and rumbled to a king-sized dunk. That basket, which came with four seconds left, set the halftime score.
The second half saw Kentucky quickly slice into the deficit. The Cats tied it at 45 on a Prince three-pointer with 16:09 left. UK got even three more times in the next six minutes.
Each time Maryland responded with scores inside the next 17 seconds.
Maryland protected its lead down the stretch by pounding UK inside. After a Drew Nicholas three-pointer put the Terps ahead for good at 56-53, Maryland went inside for five straight baskets and 14 straight points.
Baxter had six of those points.
His two free throws put the Terps ahead 70-63 with 3:31 left.
UK was no comeback team this season. The Cats brought a 2-6 record when trailing going into the final five minutes into this test.