Maryland won a classic basketball game last night with a play that was anything but classic.
Trailing Clemson, 83-82, with five seconds left, the Terrapins ran their patented no-name, no-number play -- just find a way to get the ball to Greg Manning -- and just as it did last year against Duke, it worked.
After almost falling while coming around an Albert King pick Manning lofted a soft six-foot shot over the reach of Clemson's Larry Nance for the winning points in a stirring 84-83 victory that had 14,500 fans in Cole Field House losing their minds.
"The play isn't necessarily designed to go to me," Manning said. "We have three options, me Ernest (Graham) or Albert, whoever gets open. I wanted the ball, just like everyone does in that situation.
"It was a good shot, a short one and I was wide open after Dutch (Morley) fed me the pass. I just lofted it a little to make sure it didn't get blocked at the last second."
It didn't blocked and the Terps leaders by as many as 12 points after halftime, escaped with their fourth success in five ACC games and raised their overall mark to 12-2. Clemson is 11-3 in all games and 3-2 in the conference.
Though they never led from the third minute of the game until the last minute, the Tigers had several chances to win. Their final shot, a 22-footer by Billy Williams, who led all scorers with 28 points, came one second after the buzzer.
Clemson had called time with two seconds left -- scoreboard operator Francis White let it run to :01 but was told to put it back at :02 -- and Nance passed to Fred Gilliam at mid-court. Gilliam took one dribble and passed to Williams on the right. The 6-foot-2 guard's shot clearly came after the buzzer.
"The one dribbled killed us," Clemson Coach Bill Foster said. "If he just takes it and passes, Billy gets the shot off in the time. That was the difference."
Clemson would not have needed a desperation shot had it made its free throws. At the stripe the Tigers, shooting 70 percent coming in made only 15 of 27. The worst offender was Nance, going three for 12 and missing when he had a chance to ice the game.
The Tigers had taken their first lead since 9-7 when, with 24 seconds left, backup point guard Chris Dodds netted a forced 10-foot shot from the lane over Reggie Jackson for an 83-82 edge.
The Terps came down, eschewed the timeout and got the ball to Albert King, superb again with 26 points. But King's 10-footer hit the back rim and Nance pulled off his 12th rebound. He was immediately fouled by Manning. Driesell called time with 11 seconds left.
During the timeout Foster admitted pershing the thought of having Nance suddenly become injured so he could substitute a shooter. "You'd have to do a heck of an acting job unless you do it right away when you get fouled," the coach said.
So, with Maryland's first sellout crowd of the year screaming, the lanky, 6-10 Nance strolled to the line. Holding the ball over his head in his awkward two-handed style, he fired a brick. King rebounded and with five seconds left, the Terps called time.
"We were trying to play a soft man-to-man," Foster said. "I didn't want King or Grahm popping over a zone. I wanted them to take a 15-plus-foot shot with a hand in the face."
It didn't work that way. Manning starting on the right side, swung behind a King pick and, after almost falling, took a bounce pass from Morely with Billy Williams a half-step behind. By the time Nance moved Manning was six feet from the hoop near the left baseline.
"We all left confident Greg would make the shot," said Buck Williams.
"He's a money player."
Manning wasn't thinking about that. He was upset with himself for missing two of three free throws down the stretch with Clemson fouling during its comeback. "I wanted to make up for those misses," he said.
His winning shot, which tied him with forward Graham for second-high Terp scorer with 19 points -- Graham had 13 rebounds and six assists with his 19 -- capped an evening of scintillating basetball.