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 defeated Duke, 87-73, on Feb. 17, 2002, at Cole Field House, with Steve Blake’s steal of Jay Williams being the lasting image from that game. How did Blake’s steal-and-score help ensure that Maryland won that ballgame? How much confidence did that win give the Terps?
That was one of the greatest defensive plays individually I’ve ever seen because Steve by then had started a lot of games for us even though he was just a junior. … Cole, you know Cole. It was so good. It was so loud. We had played really well the first half. [Jay] Williams is standing there with the ball dribbling near half-court. [Mike] Krzyzewski’s trying to get a hold of him, trying to yell something for him to run or whatever. He looked back at Steve, and Steve inched up a little bit. If you ever look at a tape of it, you see him getting a little closer.
Then Krzyzewski might have said something else because Jay Williams started to look back again, and Steve timed the dribble. You have to get it as it leaves Jay Williams’ hand and before it hits the court. That’s the only way you’re going to get it. And then the thing that got lost in the play, which I remember, Steve made an incredible layup. Jay Williams, he can get up pretty good, and Steve went over Jay Williams to make that layup. That was such a momentum thing going into halftime that I knew we were going to win that game then because of just the way we felt in the second half.
[The steal] just says a lot about Blake’s intellect when it comes to the game of basketball — all the little things he’s watching as a point guard, not just on the offensive end but the defensive end. He made a crazy play. You know what would’ve been crazier, though? If he would’ve thrown that thing back to Chris Wilcox and he dunked that thing — a tomahawk dunk. … If he would’ve thrown that thing back to Chris Wilcox, that building would’ve probably come down. That would’ve been crazy. You thought it was jumping on that layup? It would’ve been going nuts if Chris Wilcox got an opportunity to dunk that ball.
That game was just big for us — at home, in front of our home crowd, in Cole Field House, the last year Cole Field House was open. That game was just monumental. Every time [Steve Blake and Jay Williams] went up against each other, it was just a battle. When he got that steal, you could feel the energy, you could feel the crowd, you could feel everything that was going on. That was just another one of our defining moments.
[The win] was big because now we felt like we could [win the national title]. Before that game, we knew we could get back there but we didn’t know if we could win it. … I think that game kind of gave us a confirmation [that] we’re all on the same playing field now. Now, they can start taking us serious. … It was big because once he got the steal, we were like, “Holy shit.” They thought everything was sweet and then it was like, “Boom.” I felt like we’ve got a chance to kind of give them the same feeling that they gave us in the Final Four. It wasn’t on the same level because it wasn’t in the Final Four, but in that game, to us, that was that stage.
The last time we played Duke at home, they came back. We were up 10 with 50-something seconds left and they beat us, so we were definitely prepared for that moment. The crowd was crazy, so much energy in the building. Everybody talks about that play [with] Steve Blake. It was just icing on the cake. We were just ready, man. We were just ready for that moment. We were just motivated, not even about beating Duke but our ultimate goal was just to win a national championship. That’s more for the Maryland fans, the whole “Beat Duke” thing. We were just focused and motivated throughout the whole year. Our ultimate goal was just to win a national championship, being in the Final Four the last year.
That whole year Cole was just electric, being able to go undefeated at Cole in its final year. And there were so many memorable moments like Steve’s steal against [Jay] Williams where it kind of seemed like it got so loud the roof might come off or something like that. Special, special to be able to go out in Cole like that.
[The win] was wonderful. We were clicking on all cylinders that day. We came out on fire. When Steve stole the ball, that’s when I knew we were going to win. … The atmosphere was crazy because Duke at the time, everybody wanted to play against them and beat them. We just had to get out there and do what we had to do.
[Blake’s steal] was one of those plays where you have to have great anticipation. You have to always be thinking, and that’s something that Steve was really good at. Steve was always thinking ahead. That’s why he was such a great point guard. Anyone who knows the game, that play kind of set the tone for the game. I know it was at the end of the [first] half, but that play kind of summed up the entire game. That season, we went 15-1 in the ACC, but we were so focused and our entire team was so focused. But just that one play kind of summed up that game and how much Steve thought ahead and how smart he was as a player on the court.
… Our fans were always amazing, but that atmosphere all year, every game, was always on 10. I mean, it was always on 10. From a player’s perspective, I think we felt like we had a special team. We knew how far we could get from the previous season, so we felt that we had a special team. So I don’t know if we were surprised by anything that happened that year because I think Coach Williams kind of put into our mind to expect it, and I think we did expect the outcome that we got. But just talking about the atmosphere, the atmosphere at Cole Field House every game was on 10. It was magical.
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics