Georgetown took Maryland's best punch tonight, reeled monetarily, then came off the mat to knock the Terrapins out of the NCAA tournament, 74-68, in a game which led up to its buildup in intensity, if not in artistry.
The Hoyas played 13 1/2 minutes of the second half without their big man foul-laden Craig Shelton, and turned a five-point deficit into a five-point lead while he was absent.
"I think we were kind of in control when he got that fourth four," said Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell. "But that seemed to fire them up.They just started playing better. They were the better team than we were tonight." j
Shelton had only seven points and two rebounds, but Georgetown got 18 points from Eric (Sleepy) Floyd -- 12 during the critical second-half run -- and 14 from John Duren along with seven assists.
But more critical in this victory, which puts Georgetown in Sunday's East Regional final against Iowa, was every coaches' favorite word -- defense.
During the last 18:05 of the game Albert King, Maryland's Mr. Everything, did not score. His last basket, a 20-foot jumper which put Maryland up, 45-40, came on the play on which Shelton drew his fourth foul.
That gave King 15 points. He took four more shots before fouling out with 1:02 left. Without King playing well, Maryland is not the team that finished its season 24-7.
"I thought we were giving Albert a little too much freedom during the first half," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson, who exchanged a half-hearted handshake with Driesell at game's end. "We started overplaying him, got closer to him, didn't let him move as much."
With King out of the offense, the Terps were mortal. On defense, they were good, but not good enough to overcome the long-range bombing of Hoya guards Duren and Floyd.
"We wanted them to shoot jump shots, keep them outside," said Buck Williams, the Terp's best player this night with 18 points and 15 rebounds. "But they just kept making them. I kept waiting to get the rebounds when they missed but they never came."
The Terps waited for the rebounds, and perhaps they waited for Georgetown, now 26-5 with a 15-game winning streak, to fold. The Hoyas didn't. In fact, they never blinked, even when it would have been perfectly reasonable for them to do so.
Georgetown had led for virtually the entire first half, grabbing a 14-6 advantage in the first three minutes and upping the margin to 22-12 midway through the period.
By the Terps, finally figuring out the Hoyas' full-court press, slowly pulled their socks up, pushed Georgetown outside with an active, moving zone and pulled even at 34 on a Dutch Morley steal and layup with three minutes left in the half.
They took a 39-38 lead into the locker room after King hit a floating jumper in the lane five seconds before the intermission.
"We were confident then," King said. "We knew they had played a great first half, but we were ahead. I think we all thought we were going to win."
These feelings grew even stronger during the first 32 seconds of the half. First, Shelton picked up his third foul trying to stop a pass to Williams. Then, as Greg Manning hit a long jumper, he picked up his fourth foul, trying to box cut underneath.
Before Shelton even had his warm-up jersey on, Manning, who led the Terps with 19 points, hit another jumper and Maryland let, 43-38.
"It sure looked good then," said Driesell, "but then we went and fell apart."
Or were victimized by Georgetown, depending on your point of view.
"The kids kind of realize when a person as good as Craig is not in and they go harder," Thompson said. "They got fired up and really started to play.
Two baskets by Al Dutch got the Hoyas within 45-44. Then Ed Spriggs, breathing fire, went inside on King and was fouled. Spriggs was so fired up that he jabbed his finger at King, who is perhaps as mild-mannered on the court as any lawyer in the country.
Spriggs made one of two free throws and the game was tied at 45 with 16:53 left. "You could sort of feel the momentum swinging then," Williams said. "It had been our way, but now it was theirs."
The teams traded baskets twice to reach 49-49 before Floyd went into his act and put the Hoyas on top for good. First, he knocked in a 20-footer from the left side to make it 51-49. Then, grabbing a King miss, he went the length of the court for a twisting layup to make it 53-49 as 17.569 in the Spectrum shook their heads at the move.
Williams answered with a dunk, but Floyd came right back for another bomb and it was 55-51, Georgetown, with 14 minutes to play.
Now, slowly, the wheels were coming off for Maryland. Williams picked up his third foul trying to rebound a rare Manning miss and Eric Smith, largely responsible for King's second half silence, hit a 15-footer to make it 57-51.
"We just played a little harder when we had to," said Smith, the quiet sophomore. "We didn't let up just because we were without Craig."
Maryland did not quit though. Manning's 15-footer cut it to 61-58 as the final 10 minutes began and Driesell, who had a season-high four stomps, through his team was ready to make its move.
It never happened.
Duren bombed in his sixth 20-footer of the night and Floyd stole the ball from Reggie Jackson, who had just four points in this hometown, and went the length of the court for a dunk. It was 65-58 with nine minutes left and the Hoyas were in control.
On the next possession, they went to their spread offense. Although they were far from flawless running it (they had 20 turnovers, Maryland 27), the Terps never could take advantage of the mistakes, scoring just twice in nine possessions from 8:44 until the final minute.
"We never got under control offensively," Driesell said. "Their defense gave us trouble but we hurt ourselves." Hurting Maryland the most were Ernest Graham (three for eight, six points, seven turnovers) and Jackson, five turnovers in 14 minutes.
Because of their offensive problems, the Terps never got closer than 68-62, with 2:53 left on a Manning drive. Down the stretch the Terps tried to foul and went right for Smith -- a 56 percent four shooter on the season.
"I knew they were going to foul me, because I heard them talking about it on the bench," Smith said. "They thought I couldn't shoot foul shots."
After missing two in the first half, Smith came through with seven of nine down the stretch. That broke Maryland's back. Smith clinched the victory with two free throws, giving the Hoyas a 72-64 lead with 1:02 left. King, who had not realized that he was committing his fifth foul when he grabbed Smith, went to the Maryland bench and buried his head in his hands.
For Maryland, it was the end, a shattering disappointment at the finish of a superb season. For Georgetown, it was another step forward -- a giant step.
"They're a great team," King said. "Clearly, they can go all the way. This hurts, it hurts a lot."
"But," he added, looking around at his silent teammates, "it doesn't hurt half as much now as it will in the morning."