Okay, everybody, up against the wall. Lefty will now pass among you and slap you upside the face. He is making a list and checking it twice. Those he misses this time, he'll get to you later. Just when Lefty had much of the Western world convinced that there was a light on upstairs but nobody home, well, then he goes out and whips up on somebody he already lost to twice. Next time somebody asks him if he can spell anything except X and O. Lefty can say, "I dunno, ya know, but I sure can spell 85-62."
Maryland 85, Virginia 62.
"They came out flyin,'" said Jeff Lamp, a class act who does the important work for Virginia. "When they do that, well, that's what Maryland is all about. There wasn't a lot we could do about it."
"They didn't do that much different from the last time," said Ralph Sampson, Virginia's 7-foot-4 all-America center. "They sagged a man back in my lap more, and Buck was behind me, elbowing me and hitting me in the back. Our mistake was we put ourselves in Maryland's game. We didn't play our game, we played their's."
That's not it. Saying that, Sampson would have us believe Virginia lost because it fell into a running game with a team that, on the run, is a piece of poetry. No, last night Maryland won because it was a full team, wonderful not only with the ball in hand at 85 mph, but also good at a walk -- and it played defense as if protecting Rita Jenrette from the advances of salacious governors.
By the time Sampson first touched the ball last night, the ACC semifinal game was nearly five minutes old. Maryland led, 8-5. Once Maryland took a 10-9 lead, it never trailed as Lefty Driesell controlled every move on the floor. On a night when four guys named Rivers, Jackson, Pittman and Veal -- who are these guys? -- made 10 of their first 12 shots, Lefty did more than all his helpful advisers could have wished for.
Three weeks ago, Maryland was playing so poorly that the authors hard at work on novels of the human condition put new paper in their typewriters and fired off letters to the sports editor. If Lefty had any scalp, these correspondents wanted it as punishment for his coaching sins. Over his Sunday morning coffee, Lefty read these sweet missives and went ripping through the phone book, looking up the authors. For TV the next day, he said he wanted to slap their faces.
"I can coach," Lefty said, over and over. "I can tell you what my team did in parctice 26 years ago. I am organized. I can coach."
Three weeks ago, Lefty might have been hell on wheels with the Xs and Os and organization, but his team needed overtime to beat Pitt. Maryland beat Georgia Tech by eight points for crying out loud and then lost to Duke, Wake Forest and North Carolina. In the last game of the regular season, Maryland lost at Virginia, 74-63.
Six days ago, that was, I dunno, ya know. Maybe Lefty took a speedreading course and in those six days read every word Dean Smith ever said. For sure, he was a whole lot smarter last night, weren't he? The temptation is to say that with Albert King flying, with Buck Williams so wiered he wouldn't let Lefty substitute for him, with Greg Manning throwing in shots from Rita Jenrette's shower -- with Steve Rivers, Reggie Jackson, Charles Pittman and Herman Veal suddenly stars -- the temptation is to say Gorilla Monsoon could have coached Maryland to victory last night.
He could have, if he were brave enough to do what Lefty did.
Lefty put his brain on the line early.
Maryland led, 28-19, with 7 1/2 minutesw left in the first half. The lead was built on running. Sampson was ineffective at both ends of the floor because Maryland's collapsing zone defense kept the ball away from him and its quicksilver offense wouldn't let him get within shot-blocking range. Maryland's rebounders kept Sampson away from the boards, and every time Buck Williams took the ball out of the air, the first thing he did was throw it seven miles downcourt.
Greg Manning caught it and made another layup.
The mighty Virginians, No. 1 in the country only three weeks ago, had a good view of this work, bringing up the rear.
So with 7 1/2 minutes left and Maryland running Virginia breathless, what did Lefty do?
He ordered a delay. Not Dean's four corners. Lefty's two points. That's what he calls it, because it is designed to get him two points. Scientists interrupted their Nobel experiments to look at the TV and say, "My word, Mr. Driessell, surely evolution has produced a creature intelligent enough to know one does not stop running now. Especially one does not go to a delay when by custom it is worked so poorly that one is put in mind of the Wallendas on the high wire in a wind. So it is with your team, Mr. Driesell, your two-points stratagem always is a foolish adventure."
Wrong, test-tube breath.
Lefty had his good reasons. For one thing, both King and Ernest Graham, his two best runners, were out of the game with three fouls. So Lefty wanted to save them for later. For another thing, Maryland's two-points offense will work against Virginia if it works against anybody, because Lefty's guys have a half-step in quickness on the Cavaliers.
By halftime, Maryland expected its lead a point, to 35-25.
"We made a couple strong comeback attempts in the second half," Lamp would say after scoring 25 for the losers. "But it seemed like every time they would make a mistake, we'd come right back and walk or throw the ball away ourselves. It was their night."
It was Maryland's night because Lefty's guys made it their night with hustle and desire. Clearly, it was Maryland's night with still 10 minutes to play when King threw in a 12-footer for a 54-40 lead. After Virginia kicked the ball away on its next possession, the Cavaliers called a timeout and one reporter's notebook carried these words. "It's over. Only a clear case of panic can lose it for M now. Not tonight. Lefty can say, 'Everybody up against the wall.'"