Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell was extremely succinct tonight when asked to assess his basketball team's 56-55 win over Penn State in Hersheypark Arena.
"We won," he said.
Beyond that, there was not a lot for Driesell to say. He was fortunate enough to get an excellent performance from Albert King -- 28 points -- on a night when his team played sloppily enough that it could have lost to a team that has the quickness of a group of sumo wrestlers.
"I thought we were going to win the game," Penn State Coach Dick Harter said."I thought we would play better defense than we did. I thought we could shut them down a little better than that."
Harter's problem was simple: he had no one with the quickness to stay with King, who shot 11 for 21 from the floor; had three three-point plays and came up with the game's crucial assist on Ernest Graham's basket to put the Terps ahead for good with 3:42 left.
"I wasn't consciously looking to shoot the ball a lot," King said. "It was just something that happened. I know with Buck (Williams) out, I have to pick up more of the ofense. Tonight, I did."
King's performance might not have been enough if Graham had not come to life in the second half. Coming off a three-for-15 shooting performance against Maryland-Eastern-Shore, Graham was zero for three in the first half, shot two air balls and picked up three fouls.
With a front line of Taylor Baldwin, Mark Fothergill and King playing most of the half, the Terps trailed throughout, going into the dressing room down, 31-29.
"At halftime I just tried to get myself together, come back out, play a smart game and get some momentum going," Graham said. "With them concentrating on Albert a lot, I had some room to work with."
Graham shot four for six the second half and got seven of his 11 points during a three-minute stretch when the Terps outscored Penn State, 11-4, turning a five-point deficit into a two-point lead with 3:42 left.
"I was happy with the way we played under pressure," Driesell said."They came out and played us tough and we managed to get a win without Buck and with a lot of inexperienced guys playing up front."
Driesell used King, Graham, Dutch Morley and Greg Manning throughout the second half with David Henderson and Balwin splitting the time at center. He also used a zone defense for most of the game.
"I thought the zone gave them trouble," Driesell said. "They had a bunch of turnovers off it right after we went to it."
"If we had done some rebounding offensively against the zone I don't think it would have been that effective," Harter said. "But we did zero on the offensive board the second half."
Penn State (1-1) did get a number of open shots in the 15-foot range against the zone but only guard Mike Edelman (nine of 18) with 20 points and freshman forward Rich Fetter, 11 points, hit over it with any consistency. The Lions shot 48 percent for the game, Maryland 45 percent.
"Yeah, but we won against a team playing us tough without the big guy in the middle," said Morley, who had six steals. "We'll take a win like this anytime."
Morley had a point because the Terps (2-0) easily could have lost. If Penn State had not lost its patience against the zone after getting up by five, the final outcome might have been different.
After Graham's layup, off a perfect pass from a double-teamed King, put the Terps in front with 3:42 left, Penn State point guard Tom Wilkinson forced a 20-foot jumper. The Terps came down, set up patiently and held the ball until Graham found King wide open for an easy dunk and a 55-51 lead with 1:45 left.
That, for all intents, sealed the issue. Wilkinson sank a jumper to make it 55-53 with 30 seconds left but Morley made one of two foul shots with 14 seconds to go to make Fetter's layup with two seconds left meaningless.
As a group, the Terrapins were extremely pleased to have escaped with a win in the extremely physical contest (37 fouls), but all agreed they will have to play better if they are to win Wednesday night against Georgetown in D.C. Armory.
"We'll have to play better," King said, but as if to point out that his aggressive performance tonight was not a one-time thing, he quickly added, "but they'll have to play well too. We sure aren't going to be easy."