Maryland suffered the ultimate humiliation last night.
Georgia Tech, the punching bag of the Atlantic Coast Conference for two years, beat the Terrapins on a 22-foot jumper with two seconds left. George Thomas' shot gave the Rambling Wreck a 45-43 victory at Cole Field House and broke Tech's 16-game losing streak in the ACC.
Georgia Tech has won only two of 29 conference games; its last ACC victory was against Virginia on March 8, 1980.
"I am deeply embarrassed that Georgia Tech beat us here in Cole Field House," Coach Lefty Driesell said. "I apologize to the fans who have followed us for 13 years. But I'm a fighter. We're going to work extra, extra hard . . . probably two practices a day during the Christmas holidays."
Even though this Tech team (4-3, 1-0 in the ACC), under first-year Coach Bobby Cremins, is much better than the wrecks of past seasons, the Terrapins (7-2, 0-2) knew they shouldn't have lost this game, at home.
"This is the worst feeling I've ever had," said freshman Jeff Adkins, who was defending on Thomas' shot. "It's horrible. This loss just tears up the whole holiday season for us."
Until their next game, at UCLA on Tuesday, the Terrapins will keep replaying that shot that Thomas made from the left corner. Worse, Thomas is the Tech player least likely to take a jump shot with the game on the line.
Tech led, 20-18, at halftime and was comfortably ahead, 40-32, with 10 minutes left. But Maryland turned a full-court press into an offensive weapon, scoring nine of the next 11 points to take a 43-42 lead on Herman Veal's rebound basket with 4:06 to play.
Then Veal fouled Tech's Brook Steppe and the ACC's leading scorer tied the game at 43 with his first free throw. Steppe missed the second, but Lee Goza, Tech's 6-foot-9 center, got the rebound with 2:43 left.
The Yellow Jackets held the ball, running the clock down to seven seconds before calling time to set up the final play.
Cremins decided that Steppe, who entered the game with a 21-point scoring average, would be a decoy and that whoever was open would take the final shot. A 22-footer by Thomas was about the sixth of five alternatives.
"We all thought Steppe would take the final shot," said Maryland guard Reggie Jackson, who played admirable defense on Steppe in the first half before getting into foul trouble.
Thomas threw the inbounds pass to forward Maurice Bradford, then took a return pass deep in the left corner. Thomas squared to the basket and launched the shot that would give Maryland its first home defeat this season.
Maryland tried two plays in those last two seconds. On the first, Dutch Morley threw a long inbounds pass to Adrian Branch at midcourt. Branch called time as soon as he touched the ball. The clock ticked down to one second. Morley threw the second inbounds pass to center Charles Pittman, but he missed a 13-footer from the left base line with no time remaining.
"I know they weren't looking for me to shoot a jumper," Thomas said. "I'm the last man they would expect. I just happened to get open in the corner. It feels great, just great to have done it. But if I had it to do all over again, I would want Brook (his roommate) to take the shot."
Said Cremins: "The kid did it all by himself. I decided to use Brook as a decoy and they keyed on him. It worked. This is the best basketball we've ever played."
It was also slow, agonizing basketball, the only way Georgia Tech figured to beat Maryland. "We played to their beat," Jackson said. "You get into that type of game with them and they can win it."
What caused Maryland's downfall more than anything was its 35 percent shooting. The Terrapins rarely got the ball inside to Pittman (five points) and Veal (13 points, eight rebounds).
"We were taking horrible, horrible shots," Driesell said. "But we still should have won the game.
"I think games like this (Tech's slowdown) are going to kill college basketball," Driesell added. "I wouldn't have paid 2 cents to see this game."
Bryan Palmer, a 6-foot-10 forward from Susquehannock High School in Glen Rock, Pa., announced yesterday he will attend Maryland next year. Palmer, averaging 25 points and 15 rebounds, chose Maryland over Syracuse and Massachussetts.