In their worst dreams, fine teams such as Maryland see Georgia Tech. $1
"Not weird exactly," Albert King was saying, breathing easily at last. "But they're so patient. They throw 15-20 passes each time. It's hard to get the fast break going. I'd much rather play somebody else, Virginia or Northern Carolina to name two."
What King meant was the Techs of college basketball will never beat the Marylands but they might well force the Maryland to beat themselves.
Not long after his seven-foot spin shot from the right baseline in overtime saved the Terrapins unimagined embarrassment today, King agreed their ACC tournament opener should have been over after the 6 1/2 minutes.
Maryland had an eight-point lead, 12-4, which usually is as good as twice that against teams such as Tech. It forces them into exactly what they prefer not to play: basketball.
And these Yellow Jackets, well coached as they are simply have very few stingers, no more than two players who could escape the Maryland bench for more than a moement or so.
"Seven?" King exclaimed.
Seven in a row.
"Bad," he said, as if the odor had suddenly permeated the dressing room. "Gotta work at it. Maybe we were little too tight. We'll be loose and ready to go next time."
This time the Terrapins almost invented ways to allow Tech back into the game. Turtles suddenly turned loose in the ACC first-round game could not have been more erratic, more likely to guide the suddenly slippery basketball every which way but to a teammate.
"I don't think we played poorly," Coach Lefty Driesell said later, "but they made us play poorly. That's the way they play their game."
By the time each Marylad player had sinned in some way, Tech had crept back into the game, into the lead in fact. and its pastel game plan (a play called "yellow" worked a lot on offense and a defense called "brown also was useful) it stayed close enough to win.
This is how Tech sees itself: "As modest as it might seem," a pregame press release stated, "the Yellow Jackets have won two straight games (for the first time all year). . . ." Others who have seen them insist their one ACC victory was one more than proper.
But in the final moements of regulation and all but the final moments of overtime a Brad Davis lookalike named Brook Steppe began concocting a Terrapin stew. He missed more shots than he made for the game -- but just one of the last five.
Steppe was an unerring as Greg Manning and Brian Magid on their best days, capable of hitting any shot from anyplace on the floor. Which leads even someone who has spent too much time on too many mountains of late to wonder why Maryland allowed him to take the last shot of regulation and overtime.
Maryland had a chance to end the game without giving Tech any kind of reasonable shot. Instead, the dreaded Steppe got two decent tries, one of which made overtime necessary.
With eight seconds left in regulation, Tech had the ball and the length of the floor to travel for the two points for a tie. The Terrapins had just five team fouls, meaning they could give one without Tech shooting a one-and-one free throw.
Ideally, a Maryland player would wait until somebody from Tech was about to get the ball in shooting position and then smack him. Tech would keep the ball, but only a tick or two would be left in the game.
Lots of teams have used similar situations to keep opponents from shooting at all. Maryland allowed two passes and a relatively unmolested Steppe jumper at the end of regulation.
It allowed Steppe two dribbles from half court and an off-balance 22-footer that bounced of the rim at the end of overtime.
"We (the coaches) told them to foul Steppe at half court," assistant John Kochan said.
"Same thing at the end of regulation."
It missed King's ears. Or sailed in one and out the other.
"I'd rather have him rush the ball upcourt," he said of that final Steppe charge from midcourt with three seconds left. "If you let 'em set up, even with just a second left, he might be able to get a pick and hit an easy 30-footer."
An easy 30-footer?
"For him right then," King said, "a 30-footer off a set play was easy."