No more miracles

No more miracles

Indiana’s Cinderella story ends with 64-52 loss to Maryland

By Stan Sutton, Herald-Times Sports Editor

April 2, 2002

Maryland’s Lonny Baxter shoots over Indiana’s Jarrad Odle during the first half. Staff photo by David Snodgress
From the Apr. 2, 2002 Bloomington Herald-Times

ATLANTA – Call Indiana a Cinderella team if you like, but history will call the Hoosiers the second-best team in the nation in 2001-02.

Maryland is the champion, a 64-52 victor over the upstart Big Ten co-champions in Monday night’s NCAA championship game in the Georgia Dome. Quicker and stronger, but no more dogged, the Terrapins needed an 11th-hour rally to stave off an Indiana team that had been sprinkled with some stardust, but not enough.

Indiana (25-11) led only once in the championship game, and once the Hoosiers gained that hard-fought 44-42 edge the bubble burst with alarming quickness. IU hit a wall and Maryland finished with a 22-8 flurry.

“We missed a couple of shots. We gambled defensively. They got rebounds and put them back in. It was more them than us,” Indiana coach Mike Davis said.

The Terrapins (32-4) used their vast athleticism to finally subdue a team that had been winning with guile and guts. In winning its first NCAA title the Terrapins were first to almost every loose ball, whether it was rolling on the floor or clipping the backboard glass.

“They were definitely physical. They did a great job preparing for us,” said IU sophomore Jared Jeffries, possibly playing his last game as a Hoosier. The former Mr. Basketball from North scored eight points, leaving him one short of 1,000 for his career.

Jeffries said the emotional loss is “definitely going to weigh into my decision” about turning professional.

Maryland guard Juan Dixon, named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, made two major shots after Indiana gained the lead. One was a 3-pointer and the other an off-balance mid-range jumper.

“I was trying to let the game come to me,” the 6-foot-3 senior said.

“We had a chance to make a run at them. They made plays down the stretch and we didn’t,” said Indiana’s Tom Coverdale.

The Hoosiers missed 16 of their first 21 shots, most of them heavily contested, and IU’s shooters were under duress throughout the first half.

The game’s first three minutes saw Indiana commit five turnovers and miss six of its first seven shots. Even though Coverdale made two steals the Hoosiers fell behind 6-2.

“I thought we played hard. Maybe we came out a little tight, but they were, too,” Davis said.

Five straight points by Dixon put Maryland up 11-5 but IU stayed within 11-8 when Dane Fife and Kyle Hornsby flushed 3s.

Hornsby, who scored 14, and Fife, with 11, were named to the all-tournament team.

Maryland was led by Dixon’s 18 points, based on 6-of-9 shooting, and Lonny Baxter’s 15 points and 14 rebounds. The Terps had a 42-31 rebounding edge but the teams were even at the offensive end.

The Terrapins hit five of their first six shots in the game.

Fife showed some early grit when he took a charge from 6-10, 247-pound Tajh Holden, but a turnover negated that advantage. Seconds later the 6-8, 260-pound Baxter blocked an inside shot by Jeffries. Maryland’s lead reached 17-8 when Baxter scored.

Battling Maryland’s size and quickness underneath, Jeffries had missed 4 of his 5 shots at the time.

Maryland showed more quickness and strength than the Hoosiers and the lead reached 19-8 at 11:12 when Dixon swiped A.J. Moye’s pass and scored.

Indiana was looking for something to kill Maryland’s momentum and got it when Coverdale made a pair of 3’s. However, after 12 minutes the Terps had made 10 of 19 shots and IU was 5 of 17.

Maryland opened the door by not scoring for more than five minutes, but IU had only a 13-footer by Hornsby during the same span and missed four straight free throws. IU was down 29-18 when Hornsby made a long 3-pointer and was fouled, only to miss from the line.

However, Moye stole the ball and cut the deficit to 29-23. Steve Blake scored for Maryland, but Coverdale’s twisting jumper at the buzzer left IU within 31-25.

Indiana shot only 32 percent before halftime but was 5 of 8 on 3s. The Terrapins owned a critical 23-15 rebounding advantage and scored 14 points from close to the basket to Indiana’s six.

IU’s big men, Jeffries and Jeff Newton, were only 1 of 8 from the field at halftime. Baxter was a mere 3 of 10, but Dixon was perfect over four shots.

Indiana had a slow start in the second half, taking a bad shot and turning it over in its first two possessions. But IU got 35-30 on a 3-pointer by Fife and, after Baxter made a hook, Fife centered another 3 to pull the Hoosiers within 37-33.

Dixon’s steal set up a free throws by Drew Nicholas, but Newton answered at the other end. Hornsby then made a 3 and had another bomb go in and out, but Newton tipped it in to tie things at 40 with 11:13 left.

Baxter and Jeffries tried basket, the latter on an assist from Newton, and a Jeffries basket on a pass from Fife gave Indiana its first lead, 44-42 at 9:53.

It would be short-lived, because the Terrapins countered with an 11-2 spurt that featured five points by Dixon and four by Baxter.

“Their inside defense was great,” Coverdale said. “They didn’t have to double-team as much and they could lock down on our shooters.”

Maryland coach Gary Williams became the ninth coach to coach a national champion at his alma mater. One of those was Indiana’s Branch McCracken in 1940.

It was the first time the Hoosiers had lost in the national championship game in six appears. They also walked off with the title in 1953 under McCracken and in 1976, ’81 and ’87 under Bob Knight. It was Williams’ first victory in seven tries against Indiana, his losses coming while he was coaching Ohio State.

Ironically, Maryland won the 2002 NCAA title in the 2,002nd game the school has played.