In another in its continuing series of get-it-over-with basketball games, Maryland warmed up for The Real Thing with a 69-64 victory over William and Mary in front of 13,121 very quiet fans in Cole Field House last night.
The reason for the widespread apathy was the playing style of the opponent. The Indians (3-3) are a disciplined, patient basketball team. Time and again they held the ball for what seemed like an eternity before working it inside for a good shot.
Even though the Terrapins (10-1) never were in any real danger, they came off the court frustrated by the visitors' style and slightly embarrassed because the starters had to return in the final eight seconds to put the game away.
Greg Manning was the only Terp who played near his norm, shooting nine for 11 from the floor to lead the way with 22 points. Ernest Graham had 15 points, Albert King 12 and Buck Williams 11, plus 12 rebounds. The Indians were led by Scott Whitley and Kenny Bowen, who had 15 each.
"We play like this on Wednesday against North Carolina, we'll lose by 25 points, maybe 30," said Coach Lefty Driesell, referring to the game that was clearly on everyone's mind last night. "We play like this the rest of the season, we'll finish eighth in the ACC."
Much of Driesell's displeasure was directed toward his man-to-man defense, which has been spotty all season. William and Mary consistently got the ball inside for good shots as the Terps lost their men and gave up easy baskets.
"They're just so patient," Manning said. "The first thing Coach said when we got in here was that we're going to do a lot of work the next couple of days on our inside defense. We've had trouble with teams that run a passing game in our man (to man) all season, and that's exactly what Carolina likes to do."
Maryland acted as if it intended to make this game a romp early, blowing to a 9-2 lead in the first four minutes, started by a vicious King dunk off a Manning pass on the opening tap.
But from that point on, William and Mary played the way it wanted to, hanging within 10 points on, Waiting for good shots on offense, and watching delighedly on defense as the overanxious Terps forced things.
"They would hold it and hold it, and when they finally took a shot and we finally got the ball, we just wanted to do too many things at once," Graham said. "They just lulled us to sleep on defense. We let them get inside and they're not nearly as good a team as we're going to play Wednesday."
Carolina seemed to be on the minds of all Maryland people. Even Driesell was not himself on the bench, content to sit and watch calmly the entire night. He also cleared his bench a bit too early, pulling all the started starters but King with 3:21 left and a 64-51 lead.
The subs got into trouble, letting the Indians cut the lead to 67-64 with eight seconds left on a three-point play by Whitley. Much to his chagrin, Driesell had to send his starters back to make sure the Indians didn't pull a miracle at the finish.
"I was hoping the subs would get to play more tonight," Driessell said. "I never thought we were ever in any danger of losing, but when I put them in they kind of went wild, fouling and stuff. I just didn't want to take any chances at the end."
Driesel's move caught the relaxing starters by surprise, especially Graham, who had his sore right foot in a bucket of ice. They made it back on the court long enough for Manning to make two free throws that iced the game.
"The point to make is that they beat us; we didn't do anything to beat ourselves," said William and Mary Coach Bruce Parkhill. "We did what we wanted to do with our offense and we got back to playing our kind of game. I was pleased with that."
The Terps were less than pleased, frustrated by a third game in their last four against a slowdown style.
Least pleased, perhaps, was King, left in to play the last three minutes with the substitutes. "It wasn't exactly the highlight of my night," he said. "I would have rather been over there cheerleading. But, at least we got this over with."
Or, as Manning put it, "Now, the preliminaries are over."
The Real Thing is Wednesday.