Lefty Driesell's ship came in last night, in the form of showboat guard Ernest Graham.
The Falmboyant sophomore scored a school record 44 points to propel Maryland to a 124-110 upset over fourth-ranked North Carolina State in the opening game of the unpredictable Atlantic Coast Conference season.
Another sophomore guard, Greg Manning, exploded in Graham-like fashion in the second half, scoring 20 of his 25 points in a Maryland victory Driesell said "is certainly not an upset."
Maryland led from start to finish, fending off a second-half State rally fueled by Hawkeye Whitney's 28 points.The De Matha graduate finished with 35.
For the high-flying Wolfpack it was only the second defeat in nine games. Maryland notched its first victory of they year over a good team with its first complete, two-half team effort. The Terps are 6-2.
Graham's 44 points and 1, field goals broke Al Bunge's mark of 43 points set in 1960 and Gene Shue's 16 field goals in 1953. When Driesell was informed Graham needed one basket to breakthe field goal record he put Graham back in the game, "and I told him not to rush it," said Driesell. 'So, right away he goes one on one and shoots."
But this was a night when Graham couldd do just about anything. He hit 18 of 26 field goals, breaking the scoring record by calling for the ball and banking in a 17-foot baseline jumper.
"Coach told me I was one point away from the record. I was confused. I didn't know what record he was talking about," said Graham. "I missed my first one or two shots in the game, so I figured I owed myself a few baskets. If I feel like I can make it, I shoot it."
Graham said last night's effort was nothing special.
"Just basketball," he said "Been doin' it since I was small, the same thing every day."
"After practice yesterday I played one on one with my older brother (Kevin). I still can't beat him."
Graham scored on layups and cross country jumpers, on rebounds and on prayers.
"I've never seen a guy shoot like that," Manning said. "he had so much confidence. He was shooting off his left foot, his righ foot. He thought every shot was going in, and so did State. He definitely rattled State.
"I know that for a good while, all four of the other guys on the floor were doing nothing but looking for Ernest."
The heroics of Graham and Manning made up for occasional Terrapin defensive lapses and held off a State team that shot a sizzling 59 percent in the second half.
The two Maryland starting guards had plenty of help from Al King (19 points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots), center Larry Gibson (16 points and 13 rebounds) and reserve guard Reggie Jackson (nine points, six rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes).
In other games this year, Maryland would jump to a big lead and then mentally jump in bed. State did, at one point in the second half, cut an eight 18-point lead to nine points, and soon afterward Maryland spread the court on offense with an 86-78 lead with 8:27 left.
Almost immediately Maryland was back up by 16 with Manning scoring four points from the foul line in a 10-2 streak. Manning was 11 of 12 from the foul line.
"When we play in both halves," said Graham, "we can beat anybody."
"I just believe," said Manning, "that this time when we got a lead, we just kept our heads."
"I was pleased," said Driesell, "with our defense, our intensity and the play of our younger players. Even when we got in fol trouble in the first half, it didn't hurt us. Tonight, we were awfully good.
Manning called it "the biggest win since I've been here," and the Cole Field House crowd of 14,500 howled its approval with two syllables, "erNie!"
"Its a nice win for us," said Driesell.
Coach Norm Sloan, who changed defenses to no avail critiqued it this way: "Maryland has a great deal of talent. It shouldn't surprise anyone when they really blow someone out. They just about kicked us all us all over the place tonight."