Head coach Gary Williams and players from the 2001-02 team look back at five key moments from the Terps’ championship run.

All memories were told to Glenn Clark or Luke Jackson.

Maryland lost, 95-84, to Duke in the Final Four in 2001 despite building a 22-point first-half lead. How did that motivate the Terps heading into the 2001-02 season?

Gary Williams

We just played with a lot of confidence [in the first half], and then the second half, I felt really bad. I felt for the team. There were some things that went against us, but at the same time I didn’t think I did a great job. I should’ve kept us together better than I did. That’s the thing that stayed with me, that if I ever got another chance, I’d know what to do if we got in trouble in a game where we got behind or whatever, I would do a better job because the Final Four is completely different.

The media leading up to that game is just incredible. You have to go through it once. Other coaches call you and say, “Hey, when you get there, all week you’re going to really have to watch your time because of the media,” and things like that. But you have to go through it, and I went through it. I don’t know if I didn’t do a good job of preparing. We had played Duke three times already that year — and great games. And I knew that the fourth game would be a great game. It was in the semifinals, and they got us in the second half. That’s something I’ll never forget.

Juan Dixon

We felt like at that moment, being up 22 points in the first half and taking a double-digit lead into halftime, we played like a team that was never in that position before, playing in the Final Four on that stage. Duke, being Duke, made a run and was able to come away with that victory. One experience that we all took from that game was we’ve got to play so much harder. We’ve got to be connected so much more. It carried over into the offseason where we stayed in the gym, day and night, collectively as a unit, competing, getting better, working on our game and envisioning ourselves back at the Final Four and this time winning the entire thing. We were able to do exactly that, but that Final Four loss to Duke left a bad taste in all of our mouths.

Lonny Baxter

I remember we had a press conference [after the Duke loss] and my stomach was just hurting really bad. I was just so sick to my stomach, being up 22. If anybody remembers the press conference, I just didn’t look like myself. Everybody was like, “Are you OK? You looked terrible up there.” It was just an unbelievable way to lose a game.

Chris Wilcox

That was a turn for the next year. I think that that was the motivation [for] us all. That year, I don’t think anybody went home for the summer or things like that. It did something to everybody. We got so far and now we lost, so I think that next year, everything was kind of intense, like practice. Everybody just started working hard and started competing. We started playing pickup when coaches and them didn’t even have to be involved. We started working out and training on our own, and that’s when we really knew we had something special. That whole summer after that, we all dedicated our time to the gym.

Drew Nicholas

It’s funny because I can kind of put myself back in the place. … We were up 39-17. I remember sitting exactly where I was glancing up at the scoreboard. Then all the sudden everybody remembers they cut the lead down to 10 or 11 at half and then they had the big second half and took the game away from us. But it did give us a lot of fuel to our fire knowing that, A, we can get to the Final Four, and B, that we had a lot of the pieces to get back and finish the job off.

Calvin McCall

I’ll tell you what, looking back on everything, that was probably the turning point to that national championship. That offseason and the beginning of the following season, Coach Williams stressed the importance of us coming together and playing together. His theme word for that year was “defend.” I remember it was on the back of our practice shorts. It was “defend.” If you remember, 9/11 had happened that following year. I remember him telling us after that happened, “We don’t have time to waste because we don’t know if tomorrow will be here. Tomorrow’s not promised.” Looking back on it, we would have loved to have won back-to-back national championships, but that game really set up the 2002 season.

Andre Collins

First, I felt like I was actually part of that team the year they went to the Final Four because I was at Hargrave Military Academy that year. We had probably three or four guys on the team that would be playing in the ACC. Keith Jenifer had committed to UVA, same with Jason Clark. We probably had about 11 or 12 guys who’d go D-I that year, so we took pride in our schools that we had committed to, how well they were doing. … When I stepped foot on campus for the summer session when we were working out and taking summer classes and stuff like that, you could just tell that those guys were extra motivated based off of that loss. It trickled down into the newcomers like myself and Ryan Randle and Mike Grinnon. We were able to pick up right away on what the motivation was and what the goal was.

Mike Grinnon

That introduced me to the Maryland-Duke rivalry to a whole other level [as a high school senior], and it was heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking watching that loss. I just remember my first day being on campus and meeting the guys. Our workout shirts — I still have the sweatshirt today [from] that summer — [read] “Road to Atlanta” for the Final Four. That’s what we worked out in every single day in the summer prior to that season, and a lot of it had to do with that loss to Duke. Those guys had such a mindset that there’s no way that they’re going to let that happen again.

See Also:
Beating Duke At Cole In 2002
Closing Down Cole
Elite Eight Win Against UConn
The Final Buzzer Sounds

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Duke Athletics

Issue 273: February/March 2022

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