Maryland won one for its reputation last night.
After losing to George Washington two straight years, the Terrapins closed the back door the Colonials had used with such insluting convenience.
The Terrapins erased a seven-point GW lead by outscoring the Colonials, 11-1, in the final 81 seconds of the first half, and then coasted to an 84-72 victory at Cole Field House thanks to -- of all things -- a good defense.
Al King and Larry Gibson each scored 20 points for Maryland (10-2), but the weapon that slugged the Colonials below.500 at 4-5 was an aggressive, moving 1-2-2 zone defense that controlled the game.
GW's would-be zone-breaker, Brian Magid, making his first appearance at Cole since transferring from Maryland at the end of the 1976-77 season, made just three of eight field goal attempts.
Magid can be deadly between two feet and two miles, but without such accuracy last night, the Terrapin zone worked wonders.
Center Mike Zagardo and guard Curtis Jeffries each scored 17 points, but Zagardo was GW's only potent weapon when the game was in question. Jeffries scored eight of his points in the last 19.19, when the game had already been decided
King's dazzling layups and passes entertained the crowd of 11,710.
One of his one-handed swoop shots came in the 11-1 streak that decided the game. GW added to its misery by turning over the ball four times during that spurt.
With GW leading, 42-35, Greg Manning made a 13-foot jumper, GW threw away the ball in the back court, King displayed a left-handed windmill shot, GW comitted a traveling violation, John Bilney tipped in a missed shot, GW turned over the ball again and Ernest Graham completed a three-point play on a fast-break layup to put the Terps up, 44-42.
Graham and Tom Tate landed in a pile after the layup. After a foul was called on Tate, Graham pointed his finger at him, and Tate came up lunging at him. No fists were thrown.
GW then took the ball, turned it over again, and King sank two free throws with no time left for a 46-42 lead at the half.
The lead allowed Maryland to begin the second half in a zone (the Terps had gone to it at the end of the first), and it helped Maryland defend GW without Gibson and Buck Williams, who were both in foul trouble.
When GW's play became extremely sloppy in the closing minutes, the Terrapins took full control by spreading the court and running the four-corner offense better than they have all year.
"We panicked in the last nine minutes," GW Coach Bob Tallen said. "They (Maryland) played better defense tonight than they did last year, especially in that zone.
"In the first half we pretty much got the shots we wanted, then they went on that streak, and all of a sudden we lost our poise.
"We missed a lot of easy shots. We missed three layups. And Brian Magid missed shots that are normally easy for him."
"Our whole team played well," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said. "When we got up four or five points, we went to a zone and I think it hurt 'em a little bit.
"Bilney made a couple important plays for us, forcing turnovers during that spurt, and Dutch Morley ran the four corners well. It seemed like we scored every time we ran it."
Gibson had trouble both offensively and defensively with Zagardo in the first half. Then Gibson hit his last seven shots, finishing 10 for 13. In addition to his 20 points, Gibson also had nine rebounds and two blocked shots in his 29 minutes.
"We'll be right there in the ACC," King said. "We have good depth."