ATLANTA — ATLANTA - How bad did things look for Maryland early in the first half last night? Take your pick. Was it worse when Lonny Baxter picked up his second personal foul with 2:41 gone in the game, or when Kansas stormed out to a 13-2 lead on a three-point shot by Jeff Boschee right before the first television timeout?
But the Terrapins had something to reflect on, something that would ensure they wouldn't panic. They could think back to last year's national semifinal in Minneapolis, when they took a 22-point lead on Duke in the first half and watched the Blue Devils chip away, then pull away to a 95-84 victory.
It looked early on that the Jayhawks were making their return trip to the Final Four and Maryland was seeing, instead of being, stars. That's before Juan Dixon, as he has done throughout his soon-to-be-legendary career and this year's NCAA tournament, carried the Terps on his bony shoulders.
The first thing you would notice was the 19 points Dixon scored in the half, including half his team's points in a 24-12 run that gave Maryland its first lead on his three-pointer with 7:18 remaining. But it was Dixon's defense, finding the seam in Kansas' passing lanes, that led to many of his team's points.
The Jayhawks couldn't get anything going inside, with Chris Wilcox getting into Drew Gooden's head early by blocking two of the All-American's first three shots, and Baxter blocking the other. Kansas shot into the early lead by hitting threes, and shot its way into a seven-point deficit by not being able to get the ball inside.
Tahj Holden was huge coming in for the foul-hampered Baxter. While Wilcox was doing a number on Gooden, who finished the half with only one field goal (in five attempts) and four points, Holden helped Nick Collison get into foul trouble late in the half.
Despite the continued poor play of point guard Steve Blake, Maryland figured a way to get around what could be a major problem. Drew Nicholas helped a little, but it was Dixon - again - leading the Terps to a 44-37 lead.
Maryland 44 Kansas 37
Points by which Maryland outscored Kansas after the first TV timeout at the 15:51 mark
Maryland's advantage in blocked shots.
Key player, Juan Dixon
When Maryland fell behind 13-2 in the first 4:09, the senior took charge, scoring 10 in the next 4:09. He finished the half with 19.
Chris Wilcox vs. Drew Gooden
The winner was Wilcox, with 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks. Gooden had six points (1-for-5) and six rebounds.
"Lonny [Baxter] got in foul trouble early. He's our inside presence, so I just took it upon myself to hit some big shots."