Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Albert King played the celestial game everyone has been waiting for, but it was gangly Ernest Graham who boogled off the floor a dancing hero after his 22-footer with two seconds left secured a 91-89 Maryland victory over Wake Forest at Cole Field House Wednesday night.
The result raised Maryland's record to 14-11 and assured a winning season. In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Maryland rose back into sixth place at 3-8, which is important in determining which bracket the Terps will inhabit in the ACC Tournament.
Wake Forest has yet to win on the ACC road, falling to 5-6. The Demon Deacons were unable to take advantage of 29 Terrapin turnovers, even though they took 29 more shots from the floor.
Anyone who viewed Maryland last month is entitled to be puzzled now. The explanation is that the Terps made several discoveries last night:
Defense (helping out Lawrence Boston on Rod Griffin, forcing him outside, holding him to nine of 19 attempts).
Passing (the Terps had a seasonhigh 21 assists, eight from King).
The fast break (which had failed to exist, was responsible for 15 points).
A new guard (Graham).
Graham scored all 16 of his points in the second half on eight binocularrange jumpers. Terp Coach Lefty Driesell played only one guard most of the night, usually Greg Manning, and put Graham on Wake's second-leading scorer, 6-2 guard Frank Johnson.
Graham, who is 6-6, taunted Johnson throughout the second half, telling him, "You can't outshoot me. You can't outshoot me."
"As a consequence," Graham said, "he took several bad shots." Johnson finished with 19 and Griffin had 25, but both are capable of bigger explosions.
Maryland led by as many as eight in the first half, but 14 turnovers took their toll and the Terps went to the locker room tied, 41-41, at the half.
Wake's Griffin, who was slowed and dizzied by the flu, scored eight of Wake's first 10 points in the second half as the Deacons took a 51-47 lead. But Griffin tired for the rest of the half and Wake crumbled.
Maryland scored seven straight points (on a Manning pass to Boston for an open jumper, on Boston's free throws off the fast break and a three-point play by Manning driving the lane) and Wake never led again.
Graham had come in when Wake led 51-47, and once Maryland got the lead Graham turned' the flicker into a blaze. At one point, Maryland hit 10 straight shots without a miss, five of them by Graham, and Maryland surged to a 74-62 lead with 9:40 remaining.
Wake came back with eight straight points but couldn't tie it until Leroy McDonald hit from the wing for an 85-85 score with 2:16 left.
Griffin tied the score twice more, but he turned the ball over when the Deacons tried to get down court in three seconds for a final shot.
At that point, Boston turned to the crowd and raised his arms in a cheer, and Graham danced all over the floor, even better than the gold-caped Dancin' Harry, who had entertained the crowd all game long.
King was spectacular from start to finish, scoring his season-high 27 points on 10 of 16 floor attempts, leaping the lane, grazing jumpers off the glass.
He also had 13 rebounds, and his six flashy assists in the first half seemed to switch on a lightbulb in the head of each teammate. The selfishness that has hampered the Terps all year was discarded in favor of assists and handslapping.
"With such a little dude (Johnson) on me, I saw the basket in my eyes." Graham told of his heroic shot. He said someone "came in from the side and bumped me. I think I was fouled."