Sorry, this was no classic, not the sort of affair sporting devotees will pore over for decards in search of tactical subleties, in awe of sustained excellence. For Georgetown, it was better. Much better.

The Hoyas grabbed bragging rights in the Washington area and became one of eight teams left in the NCAA playoffs tonight. They did it going away, 74-68, with their best player scarcely a factor.

Who could have imagined that page after page of Georgetown's biggest victory in history would not mention Craig Shelton? Or little more than note the fact that the Hoyas sped past a fine Maryland team with him nailed to the bench in foul trouble?

With just 32 second gone in the second half, Sky had fallen. And so, it seemed, had the Hoyas. It has taken that long for him to be called for his third and fourth fouls and walk dejectedly toward the bench.

A few moments later, Georgetown Coach John Thompson called a timeout and tried his best to melt the officials with an exceedingly long and nasty glare. And a Hoya fan muttered:

"Get your raincoats. Here come the hoses."

Indeed, matters seemed bleak for Georgetown. It had chosen to fight what Thompson had called "a war" with bombs instead of tanks. And the sights of long-range shooters John Duren and Eric (Sleepy) Floyd had been depressingly erractic.

There was little else to do but go inside -- and their inside force suddenly was untracked.

Naturally, it got worse, for Greg Manning scored seconds later and Maryland had a five-point lead. But almost immediately the Terrapins gave the Hoyas a chance. Georgetown grabbed it and never let go.

And the turnovers -- there were 47 in the game -- started up in earnest. With everything to gain in the next few minutes, Maryland threw the ball away a half-dozen times. With everything to lose, Georgetown kept working instead of folding, helped force those turnovers and regain its poise.

This was a night for the supporting Hoyas to take it upon themselves to shine with spendid star glow, for Duren and Floyd to master the Maryland guards and for some relativelly obscure names to stymie the wondrous King.

Where was King the second half? Somehow Eric Smith, Ed Spriggs and their pals kept Maryland's franchise from shooting more than six times. And from making more than one.

How did the Hoyas manage that?

"I don't really know," Lefty Driesell said. "If I knew, I'd have made the adjustments."

Early on, Gergetown had all but announced that its guards either would win the game or lose it. Of its 60 shots, Duren and Floyd took 32. And Floyd often as off-target -- except when it mattered most.

With Maryland turning the ball over, Sleepy awoke Georgetown. From inside and from outside. He would make a 17-footer one time down the court and an 18-footer the next. And he would dash toward Dutch Morley, glue him to the floor with an eye fake and flash past him for a layup.

And when Maryland began to pay attention to Floyd, when more than one Terraphin stuck a hand in his face, he slipped the ball to the wide-open Duren. And Duren, with one foot on the three-point line painted to the Spectrum court, nailed a jumper that gave the Hoyas a 59-53 lead.

Nearly everyone, Maryland and Georgetown players and fans -- and the Iowans the Hoyas will play Sunday for the East Region title -- seemed stunned at what had taken place. Seven minutes after they should have been buried, the Hoyas not only were alive but rolling.

What the hell's a Hoya?

Well, tonight he was Spriggs and Mike Hancock playing exceptionally well. He was a seldom-seen Jeff Bullis actually for the ball in the final moments and Maryland looking for someone with the jitters to foul.

Tonight the proudest Hoya was the most nervous when the teams last met, December 5 in the Armory. Eric Smith admitted he was tense and unsure of himself that night, even though Georgetown won.

He would have been the perfect Hoya to foul 18 games ago. But more than three months have hardened his will. This night he was the perfect Hoya to be fouled. When Georgetown faltered ever so slightly -- and Maryland stumbed even more -- Smith assured victory from the foul line.

So it was only fitting that the game should end with Smith controlling the ball. As the final second flashed off the clock, he offered his hand to Morley -- and Morley took it.

Driesell and Thompson exchanged handshakes the way winners and losers usually do, quickly.Whatever their feelings from the bitter ending last time was kept inside.

Hoya fans dashed past guards and hugged the players. Pearl Bailey found Thompson and squeezed him. And Thompson, ever the master of understatement, said: "I think we've proven we can play basketball a little bit. We're removing some opinions now. It's a fact.

"We're still around."