There were no tears in the Maryland locker room Friday night. Instead, there was silent acceptance.

Acceptance of the fact that on the most important night of the season, effort was there but execution was not. The result was a 74-68 East Regional semifinal loss to Georgetown, a shattering end to an otherwise wondrous 24-7 season.

"We didn't play Maryland basketball," said Albert King. "we didn't do the things that got us this far. Georgetown may have had something to do with that but I don't really think so. We didn't play our best basketball.

"Why? You could think of a million reasons. That doesn't mean any of them are right."

A look at the final statistics provides some clues, and two stand out. King failed to score during the last 18:05 of the game, and the Terps committed 27 turnovers.

"When you get this far along you can't be committing turnovers like we did and win," said Greg Manning, the Terps' leading scorer with 19 points. "We got up by five and we had (Craig) Shelton on the bench. Then we kind of let it get away from us."

They let it get away by not getting the ball to King (one of six shooting the second half, total of 15 points) and by never really getting into their offense.

"If I had known how to get the ball to Albert more often I would have made the adjustment to do it," said Coach Lefty Driesell. "We never had offensive control. But give Georgetown credit for that. I think they made us play bad."

Bothered most by the Hoya press and constant clawing on defense were Ernest Graham (six points, seven turnovers) and Reggie Jackson (four points, five turnovers). Maryland is not going to beat any team, particularly Georgetown, on a night when King and Graham each score two points in the second half.

"All we can do now is be proud of what we accomplished all year," said Buck Williams. "We'll all be back next year except for John Bilney and we know we have to keep working hard, just like we did this year."

Hard work and the desire to quiet their critics, especially those who picked them sixth in the ACC in the preseason, drove Maryland this season.

Next year, it will be different. With all but reserve Bilney back and with a good recruiting year likely, the Terps will probably enter next season as the ACC favorite and ranked in the top 10.

They will not be the Cinderella team, as Driesell dubbed them several weeks ago. They will have a completely different set of pressures to deal with.

And, if Driesell succeeds in talking 6-foot-10 Spingarn star Earl Jones out of turning pro and brings him to Maryland, the Terps could be preseason favorites to win the national championship.

That would suit Driesell just fine. He has finished 20 years as a college coach with 399 wins. He enjoys the limelight and he enjoys having the opposition pointing for this team.

Friday's loss was extremely hard to take for Driesell. Not only did it end his dream for this national championship, but it came at the hands of John Thompson -- a man Driesell does not particularly like.

He has never forgiven Thompson for cursing at him on the bench during Georgetown's December win over the Terps.

At game's end Friday, Driesell walked to midcourt, reached his hand out and touched Thompson's. No words were exchanged and the two men's eyes never met.

Driesell tried to downplay his disappointment. "I'm always disappointed when we lose," he said, his voice barely louder than a whisper. "But I'm proud of this team and what it's accomplished this year.

"We'll be back."

With three straight wins over Maryland, including Friday's when the season was at stake, Georgetown is clearly the king of Washington basketball. If the teams meet next year -- which is likely, but not yet settled -- it won't be until January at the earliest.

Thus, this loss will remain with Driesell for awhile. "It's a loss like any other loss," he insisted, "except that this one ends our season. That's what makes it tough."

For the players, this was not the toughest loss to take. The defeat by Duke in the ACC championship game was more painful. That night, the entire team was still in uniform 30 minutes after game's end, many still in tears.

Not Friday, Unlike the Duke game, which the Terps felt they deserved to win, the players knew they had been outplayed. And, since the game was not decided on the last play, they were not put through the agony of last-second defeat.

For Driesell though, it was different. He has always maintained that basketball games are decided on the practice court, that preparation is the most important ingredient in winning.

In the ACC championship game, his team was superb but not lucky. Friday, the Terps were not good enough, not ready to handle Georgetown. Driesell will blame himself for that.

Sadly, after a season of vindication, he will find himself thinking often about that moment in the Spectrum when he had to offer congratulations to John Thompson.