Larry Gibson's three-point play with one second left gave unranked, unpredictable Maryland one of the biggest upsets yesterday of this college basketball season, a 67-66 victory over top-ranked Notre Dame.
The Terrapins, who tumbled out of the top 20 a week ago, increased their record to 14-5 and chopped Notre Dame's to 12-2.
And it should have happened easier than it did.
Maryland had dominated the game at packed Cole Field House, leading by as many as 12 points. Then the Terps fell apart in the final 7 1/2 minutes. Their only field goal in that span was Gibson's layup.
Notre Dame seemed in command with a 66-62 lead with 1:31 left. Gibson closed the gap to 66-64 with two free throws, and, with 1:26 left, Maryland let the Irish pass the ball around until 15 seconds remained.
Reggie Jackson fouled Irish guard Stan Wilcox, who was not having much of a day, shooting none for 4.
But he had made two pressure free throws 24 seconds earlier, running his season tally to 12 of 13. This time, he missed the first of the one and one, and Maryland's Buck Williams, who outrebounded everyone else by at least 11, snared one of his 15.
Maryland called time with 11 seconds left; again six seconds later after Notre Dame's Bill Hanzlick knocked a pass our of bounds.
So Maryland had five seconds to tie, a situation similar to that of a week ago with the Terps having three seconds to beat North Carolina with one shot, Greg Manning hit the rim from the corner.
The Terps ran the same play yesterday, a play that, during the timeout, Notre Dame had studied a diagram of.
Jackson passed the ball in to Manning, who dribbled off an A1 King pick to the corner. He opted to pass up an open shot. Instead, he drove toward the hoop and was about to fall out of bounds when he flipped a pass back to Gibson, who sank the layup and was fouled on his shooting by Bruce Flowers.
Flowers did not seem convinced he had fouled.
"If the referee says I did," he said "I guess I did."
Notre Dame called two timeouts before Gibson stepped to the line and glanced back at King, under the other basket.
"I've got it," Gibson called out. King nodded and crossed all his fingers.
Gibson's free throw disturbed only the botton of the net.
Notre Dame called time and launched a last-gasp air ball from half-court, and the Terrapins' upset was in the books.
"The whole game, my shooting was off," said Gibson, a senior captain who has been Maryland's most consistent player this year. "So I decided I'd make up for it.
"During the timeouts, I was just thinking, 'We're going to win.'
"You're right. It was a perfect shot." So was his layup, thanks to Manning's pass. Manning has a tendency to turn the ball over (he did it four times yesterday) and when he threw back to Gibson, a few among the 14,500-plus watching breathed.
"I've been running that play and shooting the ball over and over," said Manning. "I was open, but I wanted to get it inside. Gibson was wide open when I passed to him. After missing that shot against Carolina, it was nice to feel like I made up for it."
This was a game that, for Notre Dame, didn't add up. The Irish are the most accurate shooters in the land, hitting 57.3 percent over the season and a sizzling 60 the last eight contests. Yesterday they were bedeviled by Maryland's 3-2 zone, unable to work the ball inside, almost never getting second shots. They had planned to shoot well. They shot 46 percent. They had assumed they would control the boards. Maryland outrebounded them 37-28, and the rebounds begot many fast breaks.
To top it off, King and Graham were both playing excellently, King coming up with key passes and strataspheric rebounds, Graham hitting 12 of his first 19 shots and finishing with 28 points.
Notre Dame, which trailed, 52-36, at the half, was never in the game until the Terps went to a slowdown offense, shifting right past first gear into reverse.
Leading, 58-53, with 7:49 left, Maryland went to the four-corners and made only two of eight shots the rest of the way. And lost the ball three times.
This gave Notre Dame the chance to outscore Maryland, 13-6, for the 66-64 lead with 1:26 left.
"We've got nothing to be ashamed of," said Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps, whose other defeat this year was by five points to Kentucky. "It's a growing experience for us.
"Lefty and his kids really played today. Maybe it'll give them a lift in the conference. It's tough to single out one attribute about their team. I can't do that. But theyhre a very good basketball team, better than their record indicates."
Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell had said he would not consider a victory over the Irish an upset. Afterward he said, "I think we are one of the best teams in the country."
The words felt sweet rolling off his tongue after the loss to Carolina, which the entire staff appeared to take bitterly. After the victory yesterday, Assistant Coach Wil Jones said, "The only bad thing about this is we just made North Carolina No. 1 in the country."
Graham said, "We can be No. 1 in the country. Now when we play we'll feel like No. 1 and maybe we'll play that way."
Graham was in his glory on national television, pumping away jumpers, but it didn't surprise him.
"I always feel relaxed," he said. "I feel like I know what I'm doing out there."
Graham and Driesell pointed out the need to work on their delay offense, which almost became a suicide pill yesterday.
"They're young and maybe they got a little excited," Driesell said.
He didn't appear upset.