They won't put it on any highlight films. The details will be forgotten quickly. But for Maryland, tonight's 76-72 Atlantic Coast Conference victory over North Carolina State was as big as any win this season.
"If we're not in the NCAA tournament now, then that means we've been shafted," Terrrapin Coach Lefty Driesell said. "This one was real big for us. If we ain't got a bid now, we ain't never gonna get one."
With the win, the Terrapins reached 18-7 for the season, 8-5 in the ACC. The 18 victories should clinch a spot among the 48 teams that will play for the national title. State's record is now 13-12 for the season, 3-10 in conference play.
This wasn't easy. Although the Wolfpack, shooting 45 percent for the game, threw up enough bricks from outside to rebuild the Great Wall of China, it stayed in contention because the Terps hit a cold spell of their own and because State guard Sidney Loew made the other nine players on the court look like they were planted in cement.
State's last chance came with 1:20 left when Kenny Matthews went the length of the cout for a three-point play that cut Maryland's lead to 69-68. The Pack pressed to try to get the ball back and Ernest Graham, double-teamed at midcourt, found Albert King underneath for a layup to make it 71-68.
Scott Parzych missed at the other end and Thrul Bailey rebounded for N.C. State, only to travel with 48 seconds left. Reggie Jackson missed two foul shots but Buck Williams, superb with 25 points and 12 rebounds, grabbed the second miss and the Terps ran the clock to 32 seconds before Jackson was fouled again. This time he made both shots, clinching victory.
"Any win like this down here is a great one," said King, who had 12 points. "It's just nice to get two straight. All year we'd get a big win, then lose one. Now we've had two good ones in a row. It feels good."
One of the key men in this victory was a man not expected to play again this season, center Taylor Baldwin. The 6-foot-11 junior had played 11 minutes in early season, none since, and Driesell was planning to redshirt him. But with Williams getting pounded game after game, Driesell and Baldwin decided it might be better for him to come back.
"The whole idea is to get Buck a few minutes rest each game so he might be fresher at the end," Valdwin said. "Any contribution I can make now just feels great, especially on the road in the ACC. I'm glad to be back."
Baldwin played a key role in a first-half surge by the Terps that gave them a nine-point lead at one juncture. His first shot was good and he ended up with seven points in the half. Just as important, Williams had to play only 33 minutes. He made every one count.
"It helps me concentrationwise to be able to sit on the bench for a couple of minutes," Williams said. "I get to recuperate phsically and mentally. Down the stretch tonight, I felt strong."
The Terps needed everyone strong down the stretch because King and Graham were having bad shooting nights. Graham was two of 10, one of them a bank shot from the corner that was a complete accident. King was five of 13.
N.C. State led, 48-45, with 12:40 to go but then went five minutes without a point, time and again firing up 20-footers. The Terps scored eight straight points to move ahead, 53-48. Lowe, who finished with 18 points and six assists, and Dunbar (D.C.) graduate Matthews, whose 13 points put him at 1,007 for his colleger career, kept State in, but it never drew even again. Dereck Whittenburg scored 15 for State.
"We lost this game from the neck up," Wolfpack Coach Jim Valvano said. "We just found another way to lose one. But let me say this, Buck Williams is a great player. But at the end, when we had chances, we lost our poise."
The Terps shot 54 percent from the floor, largely because Williams was nine for 12 and Greg Manning five for seven.