It was supposed to be an Atlantic Coast Conference basketball game. It looked more like a teen-age pickup game -- a bad teen-age pickup game.
Maryland opened its ACC basketball season last night playing Georgia Tech, a mediocre team -- at best -- masquerading in ACC clothing. The result was a 70-60 win for the 5-1 Terps in front of 7,004 bored fans in Cole Field House.
"It didn't feel like an ACC game even before we started," admitted Albert King. "There was a small crowd, they weren't very noisy. The intensity just wasn't there like you expect for an ACC game."
The Terps, led by Ernest Graham with 21 points and King with 18, jumped to a 9-2 lead during the first four minutes and were never seriously threatened. Tech got the margin down to four early in the second half, but never got any closer and trailed by eight to 12 most of the game.
"I wasn't all that concerned when they got it to four," Terp Coach Lefty Driesell said. "Because with a slow-down team like that a five-point lead is like a 10-point lead. You know."
Driesell had little to be concerned about last night. Tech had one legitimate player, 6-foot-7 forward Lenny Horton, who finished with 24 points. Brook Steppe added 12 on a three-of-12 shooting performance.
Beyond Horton and Steppe the Yellow Jackets (2-3) did not have a player capable of making an open 15-foot jump shot. During the first half, which ended 30-20, Maryland, without a delay game, the visitors made a total of five field goals. Three were layups, one was an eight-foot jumper by Horton, the other a 15 footer by Horton at the buzzer. Tech went 12 minutes at one point without a field goal.
"We didn't shoot very well the first half," Tech Coach Dwane Morrison said, in a major understatement. "The second half I thought we played better offensively."
Basically though, Tech did not seem to play to win. It seemed to play to keep the score respectable. Even with the Terps leading by 10 or 12 points and the clock moving past the five-minute mark the Jackets continued to move the ball patiently around the perimeter, waiting for a chance to move the ball inside where they might have a fighting chance to throw the ball into the ocean.
"I was surprised by all the open jump shots they passed up," King said. "Beyond Horton they really didn't have any good shooters. But it didn't seem like they were trying to get shots.
"It was almost like they were ahead. It may have made a boring game, but it made it easier for us."
Morrison defended his slowdown tactics by saying, "the second half they slowed it down as much as we did."
The second half was a little more active than the first as Greg Manning came to life for Maryland, tossing in 12 of his 17 points. The Terps actually shot well -- 57 percent for the game -- but that was largely because Tech was so slow that Maryland shot layups or wide-open jumpers most of the night. Tech shot 42 percent for the game after hitting five of 17 (29 percent) in the first half.
Still, as Driesell pointed out, in spite of Tech's numerous deficiencies, Maryland could never really pull away. The biggest lead of the night for the Terps was 15 points and the Jackets actually cut the margin to eight at 66-58 in the last minute forcing Driesell to put Graham back into the game.
"I just wanted him in there to throw the ball inbounds," Driesell said. "I didn't want to take any chances."
There was little chance of a Maryland loss last night. The crowd knew that and the building was like a morgue the entire night. Tech, now 0-2 in conference play, appears quite capable of going 0-14 in the ACC.
"We lost, but we'll still have breakfast in the morning," Morrison said. Watching his team eat may be more exciting than watching it play basketball.