Maryland's baby-faced freshman, Greg Manning, sneaked between his tall, cold teammates and scored 23 points, hitting his first eight shots to keep the Terps in a game they finally won over Penn State, 89-80, in Hersheypark Arena tonight.
It was homecoming for Manning, Maryland's second-string point guard who played more than a dozen games here for Steelton-Highspire High School 12 miles away.
Even though Penn State took the floor in its opener with two first-teamers lost to surgery, the Nittany Lions kept it close throughout the first half, when Maryland's front line combined for 16 points and Penn State left leading, 43-42.
The second half was a complete scramble - Penn Sate led by five, then Maryland led by seven, then the Terps went cold while the Lions scored four straight on fast breaks to tie it at 68 with 7:02 left.
Maryland was not safely on the path to its fourth successive win until Manning flipped in a one-handed follow-up, drove across midcourt and up the lane to score and then stole the ball. giving his team possession and an 83-76 lead with 1:19 left.
Lawrence Boston and Larry Gibson seldom received good feeds in the first half and did not score. But they combined for 20 points in the last 20 minutes to help seal a victory that could have been attained much more easily.
"I don't know if we were just flat or what," said coach Lefty Driesell. "But we let Peen State control the offensive tempo of the game. I'm real disappointed in our defense.
"In the first half, we didn't get the ball to our big men. In the second half we did. That was the key."
Driesell had praise for Manning, as did Penn State coach John Bach, who tried hard to recruit him.
"We were so concerned about their big men, and Manning got in the cracks," said Bach. "He did everything a guy should do in a homecoming effort. He was super.
'He gives them that burst down the floor - a white shirt streaking by."
Manning scored on all kinds of daring drives and a smattering of medium-range jumpers. He hit 10 of 12 shots from the floor and three of three from the foul line.
"I kinda felt it coming," said Manning. "Before the game, I was scared to death.
"I was scared of not doing too well.I guess I know every single floorboard in this place.
"The first two shots felt good, and after that, they just went in. The ball just felt like it was part of me."
Billy Bryant, high-point man in the Terps' previous two games, was cold and hot, hitting four of 12 shots, but seven free throws padded his total to 15 points. When the ball kept bouncing astray for Bryant, he smartly began passing off - often to Manning, who responded with several slaps of thanks - and gathered nine assists.
Albert King hit four of 10 shots and scored 10 on the night as the starting five accounted for just 46 points.
Penn State suited up only 10 men and played eight, including two freshmen who Bach says may not have been ready. Junior guard Rob O'Conor of Baltimore is recovering from an October knee operation, and 6-8 forward Mike Korkowski had his spleen removed two weeks ago.
Under such handicaps. Bach was pleased with his team's performance.
"We stayed with them," said Bach, "for a long, long time."