It was 5AM in the morning of Maryland’s first ever final four game in Minnesota. The alarm hadn’t gone off and I had a 6 o’clock flight at BWI to Minneapolis through Atlanta that I seemed destined to miss. My bag was packed and I threw on my clothes and raced to the airport. There were less rigid screenings in 2001 (I think) so I pulled up to the old valet parking at BWI, jumped out of the car ran and made my flight by a minute. Stay with me on this. So I get into Minneapolis around 11 or so, meet up with Zac and his buddies who had driven in from Indiana and check out the mall of America. I run into Fang and John Cheney. Fang Mitchell, a coaching legend but more important a great guy tells me he is routing his heart out for the Terps. I have to get to the arena , I am psyched up out of my mind. I get to the dome about 4 hours before game time. I run into every Maryland Bball freak in the state, among them my buddy from Costas inn –Nick Triantofilas. Everyone is trash talking the Dookie fans waiting for round 3. Oh yea, Ishan was there as well wearing his MSU colors.
I go inside the arena an hour early, half heartily watch Zona beat MSU and then the Terps take the court. As we all remember they something like a 25 point lead halfway through the first half. The a strange event occurs. Steve Blake gets called for palming the ball —twice— and the whole game changes. The Maryland fans are freaking out. It was the same way he dribbled since he was a child. I am pretty sure he was never again called for palming. Gary was apoplectic. Dukes wittels away at the lead and eventually took the lead late in the 2nd half. the culmination of the game was Lonnie Baxter’s 5th foul an invisible offensive foul. I was sitting next to Kevin McHale at that time GM of the Timberwolves. I asked him Did we get jobbed? His response was “Big Time”
What does this have to do with today’s game? Every and I mean every big foul went against the USA ladies. But what I learned from the Maryland game was that whining over bad calls is just a waste of time. Nothing will change and a great team fights through adversity and battles with everything they have. The great teams never make excuses, never blame the refs, and to this day 11 years later, I have never blamed a game on a referee. USA fought with everything it had, down a player and perseverance finally paid off. A game for the ages by one of our guttiest teams ever. and yes the Terps bounced back a year later to capture the title.