For Terps' four seniors, Cole's finale fitting way to close their own careers


COLLEGE PARK - It wasn't just the closing of a building, but also of the home-court careers of four Maryland players who performed on campus for the final time last night in a 112-92 beating of Virginia.

Two of the team's seniors, Lonny Baxter and Juan Dixon (Calvert Hall), played their normal starring roles as the Terrapins rolled easily from the end of the first half. Byron Mouton also played well, and the manner of victory allowed the other senior, Dunbar grad Earl Badu, to see a sliver of action.

Throughout the game, much applause came to Baxter and Dixon, out of whom little was expected when they first began playing here during the 1998-99 season.

For these two, it was the second straight home game in which they had been introduced before tip-off. Last week, Dixon's No. 3 and Baxter's No. 35 were hung from the rafters at Cole Field House.

And before the last game, the pair - joining Badu and Mouton - were introduced along with their families.

Both got to meet the great Maryland players of the past who were on hand, like Buck Williams, Tom McMillen and Len Elmore.

"I had a lot of fun and I'm glad that I had the opportunity to get recognized tonight," Dixon said.

On a special night, both provided the pleasantly mundane, Baxter crashing his body into defenders on the way to lay-ins, Dixon, struggling with his shooting early before finding his groove, hustling for steals in the meantime.

"They played zone - they extended out on me and I wasn't able to get looks," Dixon said. "But I was able to get into a rhythm."

Maryland coach Gary Williams said that part of Dixon's problem was he was more high-strung than usual - "he acts like he's drunk a six-pack of Coke when he's normal." After scoring only six points in the first half, he hit six of 11 field-goal attempts in the second half, and finished with 23 points.

Baxter, on the other hand, had three blocks and eight rebounds to accompany the 20 points.

"I was just glad to be honored. It was the last game at Cole, last home game of the season - I just wanted to go out with a bang," said Baxter, who found it a challenge to cope with the demand for tickets to last night's game. "Actually, I had to turn my phone off, so many people were calling me every day."

It was Mouton who was most effective in the first half, recording all 11 of his points, four assists and four rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. Mouton, who came to Maryland after two years at Tulane, said he was surprised at the rich heritage that preceded him.

"I didn't know we had so many great players here. It was so great to see them and hear about what they did. I'm proud to be a part of this history," Mouton said.

The performances by all three players paved the way for chants of "We want Badu!" that tore through the air as the Terrapins sealed victory midway through the second half.

Afterward, Gary Williams said that it was the efforts of walk-ons like Badu in practice that make it possible for the stars to play well in games.

And with nearly two minutes remaining, Williams summoned Badu from the end of the bench.

"I didn't have any preconceived thoughts, I just wanted to win, no matter what happened," said Badu, who had a lay-in, an assist, a rebound and a turnover over the last 1:46 of the game. "I was just fortunate to get in and happy to contribute."

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