With 1:03 left on the Carmichael Auditorium clock today, Reggie Jackson took a perfect pass from Greg Manning and breezed in for a layup and a 12-point Maryland lead. As the ball kissed the glass and went through the net, Terrapin Coach Lefty Driesell jumped to his feet, waved his fists in the air and performed a pirouette.
Sixty-three seconds later, Maryland celebrated officially with a 92-86 victory over ninth-ranked North Carolina.
For Driesell and Maryland that score meant retribution. Retribution after nine straight losses to the hated Tar Heels; after a humiliating 102-79 defeat in last year's ACC Tournameant; after years of taunts from Carolina fans who insisted that Dean Smith could beat Driesell with a team of cheerleaders.
"Coach wanted this game so bad he told us he'd rather win it than eat for a year," Ernest Graham said. "We were fired up out of our minds. We've taken an awful lot off these guys over the years."
By shooting 67 percent for the game and never getting rattled by the crowd, Maryland raised its ACC record to 5-1 and its overall mark to 13-2 in perhaps its most important victory in five seasons.
For Carolina, the day was a disaster. Not only did the Tar Heels lose the game (their first at home since 1977, 25 games ago) to drop to 4-3 in the conference and 10-4 in all games, they lost their brilliant freshman forward, James Worthy, for the season.
Worthy slipped on a wet spot on the floor leading the fast break with 6:06 left in the game and broke two bones above the ankle in his right leg. He will be operated on Monday morning.
Worthy's injury had little effect on the outcome, however. Nor did the absence of guard Jimmy Black, who was in New York because his mother died Friday.
On this day, the Terps were not to be denied. They took the lead for good 10 minutes into the game at 22-21. They led by nine at halftime, and when the Tar Heels cut the deficit to 60-57 with 8:32 left, Maryland called time, regrouped and scored the next six points to silence the screaming crowd.
"Any way you beat these guys is great," said Albert King, the most brilliant of the Terrapins with 28 points (12 of 16 shooting), eight rebounds and seven assists. "To let any team beat you nine times in a row is disgusting no matter how good they are."
Buck Williams dominated the Tar Heel centers with 19 points (they combined for eight); Graham added 17, and Greg Manning was just about perfect, shooting eight for nine for 16 points, including back-to-back jumpers after Carolina made its run to cut the gap to three.
"We were all calm during the time-out after they cut it to three," Manning said. "Coach just told us to be patient and take a good shot."
Did a thought of Crolina miracles-past dance through the minds of the Terps at that point? "no, absolutely not," Manning said. "why should it?"
Perhaps that attitude provides a clue to why Maryland is playing so well. No one expected the Terps to contend for the ACC title -- except Driesell, his staff and his players. They have played loose and confidently all year.
"We don't worry about rankings, you guys worry about it," King said. "We just know what we can do and we go out and play. We're confident and we're together."
"We've gotten a lot of bad publicity," added Graham. "I read in the paper down here this morning that we were going to lose the rest of our ACC games. That made me mad. It fired us all up. All year long people been putting us down. Now, they'll say we're great. But we know we've still got a lot to do. This day is going to end and we have to get ready for (North Carolina) State Wednesday."
But before they turn their attention to State, the Terrapins have a right to savor this one. Driesell was so excited after the game that he forgot about his postgame radio show.
Yet, he tried to low-key the importance of the win, lighting a cigar as Smith, who described the Terps as "sensational," pushed his way through the crowded locker room to offer congratulations.
"I thought about all the losses, sure," Driesell said. "But a lot of them were close and they (Carolina) had great teams. This is a great team too. They'll be back."
Today, Carolina was not a great team. Only Mike O'koren with 24 points; Al Wood, with 17, and Worthy with 13, appeared to be in the flow of the game as Smith desperately tried different combinations in attempting to stop Maryland.
While Driesell used a spread-type offense effectively with King in the high post for much of the second half, the Tar Heels were unable to put together a real spurt, never scoring more than six points in a row the entire game.
That one late spurt cut it to three but the Terps never blinked and Driesell did his Carolina victory dance for the first time since 1975.