North Carolina is a basketball team that likes to burn an opponent with the back door play. Yesterday, Maryland's three senior basketball players, Albert King, Ernest Graham and Greg Manning, proved they can use the back door as well as anyone.
Fifteen minutes after Carolina had finished its 76-63 manhandling of the Terrapins, King walked out of the locker room and, as the press watched through a window outside a closed door, stepped into an elevator and departed through a rear entrance.
Five minutes later, Graham and Manning dashed down the hallway and a radio reporter asked Manning for a word. "I don't see you," Manning said.
Moments later, however, he did see television reporter Tim Brant, a Maryland alumnus, and granted him an on-camera nterview. When the locker room was opened to the press, only Buck William, Reggie Jackson, Dutch Morley and Steve Rivers remained. Asked where King had gone, Coach Lefty Driesell replied, "I don't know, maybe he went to take a powder."
Two hours earlier, when King picked up his second foul with 11:32 remaining in the first half, North Carolina Coach Dean Smith gave his all-America candidate Al Wood carte blanche.
With King rarely within shouting distance, trying to avoid drawing his third foul, Wood surgically dismantled the Terrapins with 28 points, the most scored by one player against them this season.
"Once Al Wood gets his rhythm, it's two points," Williams said. "With any momentum nobody can stop Al Wood."
Nobody did. Nobody came close. Not King, not Graham and not little-used Herman Veal. Wood made 14 of 23 shots from inside and out. His first field goal came 11:18 into the game -- a six-foot post-up over King -- and he was unstoppable thereafter.
"After Albert picked up his second foul I didn't have to work as hard to get inside," Wood explained "Albert had to back off. He knew he couldn't play aggressively as he wanted with two fouls.
"After that, Coach Smith wanted me to go straight up against him to try and get a third against Albert before halftime. When you get Albert King in foul trouble, you get the Maryland team into foul trouble."
With the Tar Heels passing the ball to their forward nearly every time they had it the rest of the half, Wood scored 16 points in 11 minutes. He made five shots in one three-minute stretch, including three straight turn-around jumpers over King after posting him just outside the lane to the left of the basket.
"Al Wood was superb against Albert King offensively and defensively in the man to man," Smith said. King, who scored only seven points in the first half, didn't ht a field goal until nearly 16 minutes had gone by.
"Al's an Olympian," teammate Jimmy Black said. "He did what he wanted to offensively today."
When Graham quickly picked up three fouls early in the second half, two trying to guard Wood, Driesell put Veal on Wood for eight minutes. In the four-corner spread offense used toward the end, Wood was the only Tar Heel allowed by Smith to take 15-foot jump shots.
In Smith's "layups and free throws ohly" spread offense philosophy, such permission incicates how much confidence the coach has in Wood.
The 6-foot-6 senior said he never was worried about having to leave the game in the opening minutes when his previously dislocated shoulder popped out of place during a collision with Black. "I knew I just needed it rest for two or three minutes and calm it down," Wood said.
Informed that television commentator Al McGuire, former Marquette coach, had told a national viewing audience that Wood's sore shoulder would dismiss him as a factor the rest of the afternoon, Wood said, smiling:
"Maybe that's why Al McGuire isn't coaching college basketball anymore."
Obvioulsy, neither McGuire nor anyone else at the game knew Wood's tolerance for pain.