While American University Coach Gary Williams was in Mobile, Ala., reveling in his team's Senior Bowl basketball championship, Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell stood in the Pauley Pavilion hallway in Los Angeles, sucking on a Lifesaver and looking for a life raft.
"If we played UCLA 1,000 times," he said, "they would win every one. We have to change this."
Tuesday night, the Terrapins played UCLA only once, if that. The Bruins, the team of probation and a No. 16 ranking, beat Maryland, 90-57, before a near sellout of 12,314 and a late-night national television audience.
"They are out of our class. That's all there is to it," Driesell said. And what of No. 1 North Carolina, the team the Terrapins will play next? "They are out of our class, too," Driesell said, before adding, " . . . probably."
On the same night, AU shot a school record 69 percent (23 of 33) from the floor in defeating host South Alabama, 70-66.
Eagle point guard Gordon Austin was voted the tournament MVP, despite scoring only two field goals against South Alabama and UNC-Wilmington Monday night. But the junior was 18 for 18 from the foul line in the two games and made a career-high 12 assists in the final.
Mark Nickens and Ed Sloane, with Austin, were selected all-tournament. Another sparkling performer, according to Williams, was center Juan Jones. "He doesn't get the publicity, but does the job we want him to," said the coach. "He did a good job on South Alabama's Reggie Hannah, who is 6-8, 230, and all-Southeast Conference.
"On the road you can't afford mistakes against good teams . . . These two victories prove that we are still a really decent team."
Maryland shot 26 percent in the first half at UCLA, 34 percent in the game. The Terrapins were outrebounded, 44-24.
Five minutes into the game, the Terrapins had more fouls than points. And they only had three fouls. They trailed, 11-2.
Later, the UCLA lead would swell to 38. If the performance Maryland gave was a clinic, it must have been the Mayo Clinic.
"After this we could only get better," said freshman forward Adrian Branch, who scored six points on three of 10 from the field. "What could be worse?"
UCLA sophomore forward Kenny Fields, who scored 16 points, said of Maryland, "I thought they were a dominant team. I think teams come to Pauley Pavilion to try to blow UCLA away. Then they get intimidated."
Maryland sophomore forward Herman Veal, who was only two of 11 from the field, scoring 12 points, countered with this: "We weren't intimidated. We weren't playing Pauley Pavilion. We weren't playing legends. We were playing the UCLA Bruins. That's all."
Driesell used a new starting lineup Tuesday night: Mark Fothergill and Branch at forward, Charles Pittman at center and Reggie Jackson and Greg (Dutch) Morley at guard. "Strategy?" Driesell said coolly. "There wasn't no strategy in a new lineup at all."
Driesell said Veal did not start because he missed a team practice Dec. 26. "If that's what the coach said, well, let's just leave it at that," said Veal.