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Francis-led Terps leap over Tech; Junior dunks Jackets on 10-for-12 shooting, 22 points in 91-60 win; 'Best we've played in while'; Road win UM's biggest in the ACC in 45 years


ATLANTA -- Explosive Steve Francis and fifth-ranked Maryland turned the "Thrillerdome" into a house of horrors for Georgia Tech yesterday.

Francis was so devastating he drew several ovations from the Tech fans, Laron Profit rediscovered his jump shot, and Juan Dixon put on a stunning high-wire act around the basket.

Francis has seldom been better than he was in a surprisingly easy 91-60 victory over the Yellow Jackets.

He shot 10-for-12 from the field for 22 points, had an assortment of soaring dunks, and added five steals, five rebounds and four assists.

Profit began "feeling it" in the first half on his jumpers and had 14 points at halftime. And the slender, 6-foot-2 Dixon even amazed coach Gary Williams when he leaped above Tech's 7-foot Jason Collier and 6-11 Alvin Jones for a rebound and stuck it in the basket to close out the first half with a 50-31 lead.

"That was a great play by Juan," Williams said. "He was unbelievable the way he flew around the court."

Dixon had 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and one steal, and Profit wound up with 17 points, five rebounds, four steals and one assist.

It was showtime for Maryland (23-4, 11-3), which clinched second place in the league and pressed the Yellow Jackets (14-13, 5-9) into shocking submission for the Terps' most lopsided Atlantic Coast Conference road victory in 45 years.

The 31-point rout is surpassed only in school history by an 81-41 romp at Clemson during the 1953-54 season, which was the inaugural ACC campaign.

Making the performance even more dramatic was the fact that Bud Millikan was watching the game at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Millikan coached that 1953-54 Maryland team, and he later coached Williams with the Terps.

And Maryland did it in Tech coach Bobby Cremins' little playground, where he still owns a 185-45 record.

Cremins could only bury his head and join everybody else in admiring Francis.

"That Francis is a heck of a player," were the first words out of Cremins' mouth as he got to the top of a runway at Alexander immediately after the game and met some Tech boosters.

Later, Cremins said, "Maryland is a great basketball team. What can I say? That spurt in the first half was incredible. We were right where we wanted to be [leading 27-24] and then -- boom! -- it just exploded [a 26-4 Maryland run to end the first half]."

Francis said he used an exchange of words with the Yellow Jackets' injured sophomore standout, Dion Glover, as motivation for the late first-half show.

Glover, who has been out the entire season with torn ligaments in his knee, was sitting near the Tech coaches on the bench and had some words with Francis when the Maryland junior rammed down a dunk off a pass from Terence Morris for a tie at 27 with 4: 49 left in the half.

"What I said to him is really between us," Francis said. "It wasn't like we were going to get in a fight or anything. We were just talking. We shook hands after the game."

Glover said Francis told him, "I want a piece of you."

Glover added, "We were talking a little trash."

The Francis-Glover words continued a little longer after the Francis dunk, and Francis answered with a three-point jumper for a 35-27 advantage with 3: 29 left in the first half.

That's when Williams, after a warning from the officials about the Francis-Glover run-in, pulled Francis from the game for 53 seconds to cool off.

But nothing really daunted Francis, who continues to climb to the high level that marked his play during the Terps' 10-0 start.

"I've been playing much better since we went back to class [Jan. 27]," Francis said. "I had nothing to do but sit around the dorms and it affected me."

Francis said he missed two days of practice last week during Maryland's seven-day layoff after getting two wisdom teeth pulled.

Williams had been concerned about Maryland coming out flat because of the layoff but he didn't need to worry.

"We had our legs and that's the best we've played in a while," he said.

Williams said the 26-4 sprint over the final 5: 21 of the first half was prompted by "going to a straight man-to-man full-court press. We had been doing a lot of trapping before that."

Maryland was helped by 14 Tech turnovers in the first half, with Collier committing seven of those and finishing with nine. The Indiana transfer has 17 turnovers in two games against Maryland.

Collier's turnovers and just four rebounds left most of the inside work to Tech's Jones, who went right at Lonny Baxter in the opening minutes of the game.

But Baxter more than held his own against Jones, who turned his ankle in the first half. Jones limped up and down the court badly in the second half but finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

It was the fourth straight ACC win for Maryland since the lopsided loss on the road to Duke Feb. 3 and ran the Terps' record to 3-0 without Obinna Ekezie.

The victory also kept Maryland's hopes for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament alive, with two regular-season league games left before the ACC tournament.

For Tech, it was its third straight loss and sixth in the last seven games, virtually ending the Yellow Jackets' hopes for an NCAA tournament bid.

NOTES: Maryland eclipsed the school record for steals in a season with 342, breaking the mark of 329 set in 1995-96. Jones, a sophomore, surpassed John Salley as Tech's all-time leading shot-blocker with 244.

Next for Terps

Opponent: Clemson

Site: Cole Field House, College Park

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Pub Date: 2/22/99

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