Remember that remarkable run Arizona went on last year en route to a national championship? It keeps paying dividends.
The Wildcats could've panicked when Maryland whittled a 14-point second half lead to one. Experience convinced them otherwise.They could've started pressing when their 3-point bombs continued exploding off the rim. But again, experience told Arizona to keep on shooting.
Riding the wave of Mr. Experience, Arizona is closing in on a repeat title after its tougher-than-expected 87-79 victory over Maryland Thursday night.
"We weren't worried; we're very confident," Arizona's seasonlong unsung hero Michael Dickerson said. "We've been in these situations before, and we showed we know how to play in those situations."
That's funny. Maryland guard Sarunas Jasikevicius didn't see it that way.
"To be honest with you, I thought we had 'em. After that run, you could see it in their eyes," he said.
Obviously he was mistaken.
"Why would we worry?" Arizona coach Lute Olson said. "During the timeout we said we got to get tougher and step it up."
Dickerson answered his coaches' heed with a streaking layup. So did Miles Simon seconds later.
The Arizona run finally ceased after it had stormed to a 66-56 lead. During that time Maryland's heart and soul, Rodney Elliott, fouled out, and Jasikevicius began questioning what he saw in those Wildcat eyes.
The Terrapins kept it within six until Simon and Mike Bibby combined to hit three straight 3-pointers near the three-minute mark. Experience told them to keep on shooting.
Bibby, a first-team All-American, finished with 26 points.
"Bibby plays like a veteran," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "He is one of the best players we have faced. But what sets him apart from the other great players is he knows when to shoot the ball."
He hit 7-of-12 shots against Maryland, including 5-of-6 from downtown.
"So much is said about our guards and our perimeter shooting, but these guys keep telling me we're the reason we're winning," Olson said. These guys he's referring to are center A.J. Bramlett and forward Bennett Davison.
They combined to shoot 10-of-13 from the field, while Maryland's frontcourt duo of Elliott and Obinna Ekezie shot 7-of-21.
That seemed to be a problem for the entire Maryland team. It shot 37 percent compared with to Arizona's 45 percent.
"We win with our defense, and that was evident for us tonight," Olson said.
Having five players score in double figures doesn't hinder your shot at winning, either. Simon added 18, and 18 while Davison chipped in 16.
The win sets up a showdown with Saturday afternoon for a berth in the Final Four.