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Terrapins finally make Final Four

Maryland 87, Stanford 73

ANAHEIM, Calif. — There are no All-Americans on this Maryland team. It doesn't need any.

Six weeks after their season seemed to be coming apart, the Terrapins used their speed and depth to upset top-seeded Stanford 87-73 Saturday and reach the Final Four for the first time.

"We're just really proud of ourselves," said Lonny Baxter, who led Maryland with 24 points in the West Regional final. "I was really desperate to make it to the Final Four, get coach there for the first time."

Coach Gary Williams made it in his 23rd year as a major college coach, the last 12 with Maryland.

He didn't allow himself to celebrate on the sideline until Drew Nicholas dribbled out the final seconds before heaving the ball high into the air.

"I knew we'd come out and play well. Whether that would be enough against a team like Stanford, I didn't know," Williams said. "The big thing is, we made our shots."

The Terrapins hit over 58 percent from the field, including 9-of-13 from 3-point range.

Baxter, a 6-foot-8, 260-pound junior, had his way inside against the taller Cardinal players and went 11-of-18 to win the region's MVP award. Juan Dixon added 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range.

Over the years, the Terps have had their All-Americans, like Len Elmore, Len Bias, John Lucas, Steve Francis, Joe Smith and Buck Williams. None of them took the team this far.

These Terrapins lack such a star, but they're still playing.

The third-seeded Terps, 10-1 since losing at home to lowly Florida State on Feb. 14 for their fifth loss in six games, are headed to Minneapolis, where they'll face East Regional champion Duke in the NCAA tournament semifinals next Saturday.

Top-ranked Duke, which beat ACC rival Maryland in two of their three meetings this season, advanced with a 79-69 victory over Southern California on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Maryland's slump began Jan. 27 when it blew a 10-point lead over Duke in the final 54 seconds of regulation and lost in overtime. By the time it ended, the Terps were 15-9 and anything but a sure bet for the NCAA tournament.

"The big thing is, we stuck together," said Steve Blake, who had 13 points and seven assists.

Maryland made 32 of 55 shots while Stanford, which hit 57 percent from the field in its three previous tournament games, shot just 23-of-56 for a season-low 41.1 percent.

"We never got in a groove, we never got confident, and there you have it," Stanford All-American Casey Jacobsen said. "I think it was Maryland's offense that did us in. We could not stop them from scoring."

Reserve Tahj Holden added 14 points and Terence Morris had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Maryland, whose substitutes outscored their Stanford counterparts 22-8.

Ryan Mendez led Stanford with 18 points. Jacobsen added 14 points and nine rebounds; Michael McDonald had 12 points and seven assists, and Jason Collins scored 12 for the Cardinal. His brother, Jarron, added nine points, and the twins combined for just seven rebounds.

"It seemed like the guys were just a little bit too relaxed," Mendez said. "When you look in their eyes, there should be a look, 'There's no way we're going lose this game.' I just thought that sometimes that look wasn't there."

Stanford coach Mike Montgomery said he believes Maryland has a legitimate chance to win the national title.

"I'm sure Gary is relieved, excited, ecstatic," Montgomery said. "He's a great coach; I'm sure it's a great load off his back. In a bittersweet sort of way, it's nice to see Gary do that."

After being thoroughly outplayed in the opening 20 minutes, which ended with Maryland ahead 41-31, the Cardinal scored the first seven points of the second half to draw within three points.

But that was as close as they would get. A three-point play by Baxter and 3-pointers by Dixon and Blake in a 68-second span put Maryland ahead by 12.

Shortly thereafter, a 3-pointer by Holden and a jumper by Dixon gave the Terps (25-10) a 15-point lead with 14 1/2 minutes left.

Stanford (31-3) got within nine points before Morris made a follow shot and Baxter a driving left-handed layup, putting Maryland ahead 69-56 with 6:24 to play.

The Cardinal were unable to pose a serious threat after that.