Maybe we should get the FBI on this case. Albert Interpol. North Carolina state troopers may be setting up roadblocks even as we speak, for there was a crime here today, a heinous crime, the crime of the century.
Of that, Don DeVoe is certain, and would Don Devoe cry just because his basketball team lost? Would the Tennessee coach cry and say the referees robbed him? Would he cry and say the referees ought to have their pictures on post office walls?
You betcha, Red Ryder.
Don DeVoe, the Tennessee loser, had seen the scoreboard that said Maryland had beaten his team, 86-75, and then walked up to Lefty Driesell, the winning coach.
"They're all a buncha hot dogs," Driesell later would say of Tennessee. "All DeVoe said to me afterward was, 'The officials gave it to you.'"
Lefty might have expected the losing coach to congratulate him and wish him well in this NCAA tournament. Had DeVoe not been so certain that the officials were descendents of Jesse James, perhaps the losing coach would have said it is an honor to lose to a team that shoots 63 percent to come from 11 points behind and win.
But, noooooo. DeVoe said the refs gave it to lefty, and so Lefty, who can't spell diplomacy, let alone do it, told the Tennessee loser to stuff it.
"I told him to kiss my tail. . . I told him we'd kick their tails anytime they wanted to try us," Driesell said.
When Driesell's recollection of those sweet nothings was passed along to DeVoe, in order to see if the winner had remembered well, the Tennessee loser said, "I haven't any comment. Whatever I said to Lefty is personal as far as I'm concerned."
What happened here today had nothing to do with the referees. It had nothing to do with class. When it mattered most, Maryland was at its best and Tennessee its worst. The referees have nothing to do with that.Unless these eyes have gone over the hill, they saw no referee lift Buck Williams into the sky for three monster slam-dunks that killed Tennessee. And when Greg Manning worked his magic 22 second-half points, the referees were never seen guiding the ball through the hoop.
The better team won.
The better team won because its center played like a man possessed while the loser team's center was a man obsessed.
Maryland's center did it all in the second half when the Terps erased Tennessee's eight-point halftime lead in less than six minutes.
Tennessee's center, Reggie Johnson, did nothing but foul out in the most foolish fashion imaginable.A wonderful offensive player averaging 19 points a game, the 6-foot-9 senior had 17 in the first half today ("He's great outside and strong inside," Williams said later. "He's one of the best ballplayers I ever played against.")
Johnson had 21 points, keeping Tennessee ahead, 46-41, when in 10 seconds he picked up both his third and fourth fouls, the fouls that caused DeVoe to wail in a loser's pitiful cry afterward.
Johnson earned both fouls. He cracked an elbow against defender Ernest Graham on the third foul. In a rage, Johnson argued with the referee that Graham had struck him first, as if that mattered then.
Still angry, Johnson immediately stuck an arm out against the moving Williams at the other end. This fourth foul, again an earned offense, came because Johnson was working in the fit of pique that has marked his play all season. He and his teammates see a conspiracy to make poor Reggie mad. Listen to forward Howard Wood: "Everybody hates Reggie. The referees just hate him. They want to get him out of the game." r
Someone asked the witness if he might explain how three referees from widely separate parts of the nation could come to hate a player they likely had never seen before today.
"Just because of Reggie's rep," Wood said apparently meaning that folks from coast to coast stay up nights checking the points totals from Knoxville.
Anyway, after his fourth foul, Johnson went to the bench for 7 1/2 minutes, returning to play only three minutes before picking up his fifth foul, this one again against Buck Williams when Maryland ran a play it calls "Bullets" designed to get the ball to the big guy near the basket.
Without Johnson, Tennessee is helpless offensively. Johnson's presence beside him on the bench must have been painful to DeVoe, and perhaps a molder of character should not be expected to bear pain without calling in the cops, but the Tennessee loser would have been nearer right if he called for an investigation of what makes this Maryland team so good.
Such investigation would show that Buck Williams is indeed "a horse," to quote the diplomat Driesell. At 6-8 and 215, Williams is strong enough to carry Greensboro to College Park. After Johnson's tantrum on the fourth foul, Williams outscored him, 13-0.
A Williams rebound bucket put Maryland ahead, 52-50, for the first time since midway in the first half. And the third of his slam-dunks -- how inadequate that noun, "slam-dunk" for this mighty man throws the basketball down with such force it's a wonder the thing doesn't explode when it hits the floor -- the third of the Williams floorbusters gave Maryland a 69-62 lead with 1:13 to go. It was over.
But not without a few thrills along the way. Twice Tennessee moved within three points, only a fall back on an Albert King stuff and one of those how did-he-do-that layups by Greg Manning.
"We got in a hole, but we never gave up," Driesell said. Then he spoke of Cinderella, saying his team wasn't ranked in the top 200 when the season started and now it's in the final 16. However much Lefty exaggerates the humble origins of this team -- its surely ranked, oh, 59th -- he stretches the truth none on the matter of his players' combativeness.
Tennessee is no great team, the third-place finisher out of the Southeastern Conference, an 18-10 team coming in today. It is a very large outfit, though, one seasoned in the roustabout style of its league. At one point today, Tennessee had a front line 6-7, 6-9, 6-10 averaging 225 pounds a man. These fellows played as if they had never heard of Emily Post.
Everyone believes that if Maryland loses, it will be to a team that outmuscles it. With the slender King and Ernest Graham at forwards, Maryland is lighter and quicker than most teams. It is at its best in a game of flash, not thunder.
While Driesell discounts such talk, saying his guys are as strong as anyone's, the strongest of them said today's victory was good for his confidence.
"We wondered whether we had the real physicalness we needed," said Buck Williams. "Now we know. We sucked it up on defense and played a controlled offense."
Today was Williams' birthday, his 20th, and he said he might have put an extra touch of power on those floorbuster dunks as his birthday thanks to his teammates for getting him the ball in close. Nothing special on his part, you understand, just thanks to his buddies. The guy is modest.
And he tells the truth. Like Reggie Johnson, Williams fouled out today.
But he admitted he stuck his hand in a guy's stomach trying to break his concentration in the last minute. "Got caught," Williams said with a smile.
Reggie Johnson left the building without talking about anything.