TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Maryland Terrapins thought they might encounter some resistance from fast-fading Florida State last night. They were wrong.
Led by senior guard Juan Dixon's game-high 25 points, second-ranked Maryland won its 11th consecutive game and clinched a share of the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship by blowing out the hapless Seminoles, 96-63, before 6,461 at the Leon County Civic Center.
The Terps, who matched the third-longest winning streak in school history, completed a best-ever 7-1 road record against the league and handed Florida State its eighth defeat in the past nine games, can now put their energy into Sunday night's final game at Cole Field House.
With a victory over Virginia, the Terps will earn their first outright ACC crown since 1980 and the third in school history, while gaining a top seed in next week's ACC tournament.
"It's going to be emotional. They better have a lot of Kleenex around. I want to finish my career at Cole on a high note," said Dixon, who shot 8-for-13 and made seven of eight free throws last night.
"On Sunday, we've got to go out and defend our home court again. It's something we've done all year. We're definitely peaking at the right time. I think it's going to be pretty tough for a lot of teams to beat us."
Maryland (24-3, 14-1), which has not lost at home this season, warmed up for the last-ever game at Cole Field House by recording its most lopsided conference road victory since 1953.
It didn't take long for the Terps to deliver a telling blow. After trading baskets early with the Seminoles, Maryland went on a 22-4 run to take a 28-11 lead with 9:30 left in the first half. At that point, Dixon had scored only two points. The Terps went on to take a 48-29 lead at the half and were never threatened.
Florida State (11-15, 4-11) in no way resembled the team that shocked Duke here nearly two months ago, and the Seminoles did nothing to improve coach Steve Robinson's job security.
Maryland looked like a team tuning up for something special. The Terps shot 55.2 percent, including a 9-for-16 showing from three-point range, as four players scored in double figures and benefited from 28 assists, including 12 from junior point guard Steve Blake.
Forward Byron Mouton scored 12 points. Backup guards Drew Nicholas (15 points) and Calvin McCall (10 points) led another productive effort by the bench. Center Lonny Baxter and forward Chris Wilcox chipped in eight points apiece.
"We took this game very seriously. We realized they were 4-2 at home and had played some really good basketball here," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We shot it well tonight. Any time we pass the ball like that, we're tough. We're playing very well as a team. We're playing unselfish, No. 1."
Maryland has never won a conference title or an ACC tournament championship under Williams, who moved into a sixth-place tie with former N.C. State coach Norm Sloan by notching his 266th ACC victory. By whipping Florida State, the Terps beat their 21st consecutive unranked opponent.
Dixon moved into a second-place tie with Albert King (2,058 points) on the school's career scoring list. He needs 92 points to pass Len Bias.
Dixon helped the Terps take a 48-29 halftime lead with 11 points, then scored eight straight second-half points to help Maryland extend its lead to 65-41 with 11:55 left.
Guard Monte Cummings led the Seminoles with 17 points. Center Nigel Dixon scored 15 points and added a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Terps attacked Florida State's man-to-man and zone defenses with equal proficiency. They scored inside and outside at will and feasted on 18 Florida State turnovers.
Florida State was briefly in the game in the opening three minutes, when Cummings scored five quick points, giving the Seminoles a 7-6 lead. Shortly after that, Baxter scored six quick points to spark a 22-4 run that set the tone for the rest of the evening.
"We had a talk during the [first] TV timeout. We had to take the game to Florida State," Williams said. "You can't give a team like that confidence in the first 10 minutes."
Now, the Terps will look to sweep Virginia and make some more history.
"It will be huge," said Blake, referring to the task of winning a conference title in such a setting. "It's something we've never done before. It's something Maryland hasn't done in a long time. We know what it takes to win."
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