Four pressure free throws by two freshmen and a start-to-finish masterpiece by guard-forward Billy Bryant carried Maryland past Georgetown, 91-87, in a thrilling finish of the first Tip-Off tournament at Capital Centre last night.
Scrappy forward Kevin Sinnett scored 27 points to pace Navy to a 60-45 consolation win over American University in the early game.
The finale was a spine-tingling street game dressed in silk uniforms and even the street king himself - Albert King - had to feel his 22-point effort was lost in the shuffle of the 26-point performance by teammate Bryant, voted the most valuable player of the tourney.
Bryant, who has begged "to play anywhere," and does, was never more valuable than in the stretch, after Maryland had scratched out a 76-72 lead that seemed ready to vanish any second.
Bryant scored on a blackpedal drive, drove the lane, scored again on a kooky off-balance drive, delivered a perfect pass to King and then came up with a loose ball, all in a brief stretch that put the Terps on top, 86-79.
A three-point play from Georgetown's Craig (Big Sky) Shelton helped close the gap to 87-83 with just 1:31 left.
King put in two pressure free throws for an 89-83 bulge, but, in the closing seconds, the Terps nearly gave the game away, interrupting their own attempts at a stall when Greg Manning was called for charging, then traveled with 42 seconds left and an 89-85 lead.
John Duren's open shot from the top of the key brought it to 89-87 with 35 seconds left. Maryland took nine big seconds to bring the ball past midcourt through Georgetown's bother some press and then, for some reason, the Hoyas waited until there were four seconds left to foul, tackling the seemingly rattled freshman point guard Manning.
Manning hit both ends of the one and one to seal the verdict.
Maryland managed to lead, 43-42, at the half, even thought the Terps had gone to the foul line just twice, while the Hoyas (11) treated themselves to eight points in 12 charity opportunities.
Georgetown went into the bonus situation with 13:44 left in the first half, and Maryland spent much of the rest of the game in a zone, trying not to touch anybody too hard.
In that respect it was unsuccessful. The area under the boards looked like Vietnam.
"There was a lot of big-time rebounding out there," said Maryland coach Lefty Driesell, whose club lost that statistical area of the contest, 45-39. "Mike Davis was super in the second half, defensively and on the boards. This is one of the most exciting games we've ever played."
Davis was a key figure in the last half, with defensive hit man John Bilney in early foul trouble, and Lawrence Boston briefly in the same predicament.
The biggest problem for Maryland was Shelton, who hit 10 of 19 shots from the floor and added 10 rebounds to his total 25 points.
But it was Bryant who left the crowd of 6,500 breathless.
"He's just one helluvan athlete," said Georgetown coach John Thompson. "He goes in the air and double pumps and the ball still goes in the basket. But he's consistent. You can't call that luck. He surprised me, very frankly, with his ability to handle the ball."
In the consolation game, Navy forward Kevin Sinnett scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, and team captain Hank Kuzma (16 points) played his most consistent game at both ends of the court since he enrolled at the academy.
In contrast to the Mids' Sunday night loss to Georgetown, the sight of a zone defense didn't intimidate them, at least not in the critical final 20 minutes.