COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Josh Howard sat in front of his locker, sobbing uncontrollably with his head buried in a towel.Playing with a painful sprained left ankle, Howard had 18 points and 15 rebounds in 25 gritty minutes for Wake Forest (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP)on Sunday. But the junior forward also made a mistake that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
Juan Dixon made a technical foul shot with 1.3 seconds left after Howard called a timeout the Demon Deacons didn't have, giving No. 2 Maryland a 90-89 comeback victory. Lonny Baxter scored 25 points and Dixon added 20 for the Terrapins (23-3, 13-1 Atlantic Coast Conference). Maryland fell behind midway through the first half, trailed by 12 shortly after halftime and finally regained the lead in the final two minutes. "We were very fortunate to win that game," Terrapins coach Gary Williams said. "That's really the first game we've had that's come down to a last-second situation. It was a good experience for us." And an absolute disaster for Howard, who had tears streaming down his face as he addressed his untimely error, the same miscue Michigan's Chris Webber made in the 1993 NCAA championship game against North Carolina. "It was instinct. I could make a million excuses, but I just messed up," Howard said. "A lot of people have done it. I'm just one of them. The worst thing is that I let down my team." The Terrapins led 89-87 before Howard scored in the lane and was fouled with 10.1 seconds left. He botched the free throw, and after Dixon missed a jumper for Maryland, Howard grabbed the rebound and quickly formed a "T" with his hands. But the Demon Deacons had already used their final timeout, so Howard was slapped with an automatic technical foul. Dixon made the first shot, missed the second, and Wake Forest's Broderick Hicks was very short on his long field goal attempt as time expired. "I'm happy he did it," Maryland guard Steve Blake said of Howard's timeout call. "I can't be too sorry for him; it won us the game." It was the 10th straight win for Maryland, off to the best start in school history and now one game ahead of second-place Duke in the ACC. The Terrapins have won seven in a row against Wake Forest, none nearly as dramatic as this one. Craig Dawson scored 27 points for the Demon Deacons (18-10, 8-6), but made only two field goals in the second half. Darius Songaila scored 20 points and Howard starred in a reserve role despite missing three of the previous four games after hurting his ankle. Wake Forest is 1-4 since the injury to Howard, who ranks second on the team in scoring and rebounding. "Obviously, we're not where we're at in that game without Josh," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "I thought he was very courageous in playing as many minutes as he did." And the timeout call? "He's cognizant of it. We'll deal with it," Prosser said. "That's basketball. I'd rather fix the problem rather than (assign) blame." Maryland trailed 85-81 before Chris Wilcox scored on a hook. After a Wake Forest timeout, Dixon stole the inbounds pass, was fouled and made two free throws to tie it with 2:13 left. Byron Mouton then hit a foul shot to give Maryland its first lead since 34-33, and Wilcox followed a Wake Forest miss with a free throw for an 87-85 lead. But the game was far from over. "I just told the players we were going to figure out a way to win," Williams said. "Of course, I hadn't figured out a way yet, but it sounds good to the players to say that." Maryland's comeback began after Wake Forest scored the opening basket of the second half to take a 58-46 lead. Maryland responded with five straight baskets, two by Wilcox, to get within two points with 17:52 left. It was 64-63 before Songaila scored in the lane and he later added two free throws to put Wake up by five. Tahj Holden then hit a 3-pointer for Maryland and Blake followed with a layup to tie it. Dawson had 22 points at halftime on 8-for-9 shooting, including 6-for-7 from beyond the arc, and Wake Forest shot 63 percent from the field in taking a 56-46 lead. Baxter was also 8-for-9 in the first half, but Dixon missed seven of eight 3-point attempts.
Maryland's Lonny Baxter, who had 25 points and three blocks, defends against Wake Forest's Vytas Danelius.
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