Just when it appeared Maryland was starting to get respectable again, the Terrapins embarrassed themselves today by losing to Georgia Tech again. The final score was 64-63 after Maryland trailed by 15 points in the second half and held the ball more than a minute for the final shot.
Freshman Jeff Adkins missed it and also a follow-up attempt in the final 11 seconds.
"I said I was embarrassed when we lost to them the first time, and I'm embarrassed again," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said. "Let everybody at Georgia Tech celebrate. Everybody in Georgia can go and get drunk, for all I care."
After playing about as miserably as a basketball team can play for the first 20 minutes, Maryland (11-7, 2-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) rallied strongly in the second half, keyed by the inside play of center Charles Pittman and seldom-used reserve forward Mark Fothergill.
During the comeback Maryland lost its leading scorer, freshman Adrian Branch, who was ejected with 8:41 to play after getting into a fight with George Thomas, who also was ejected. The two players had been pushing each other the entire game. Branch had not played well, making only two of eight shots and getting two rebounds in 24 minutes. Tech Coach Bobby Cremins blamed his player for starting the fight.
Maryland trailed by 15 points five minutes into the second half. But Pittman, who finished with 20 points after failing to score a basket in the first half, made seven of 10 shots after intermission and scored Maryland's last 10 points to pull the Terrapins within 64-63 with two minutes to play.
Brian Howard, a 5-foot-9 freshman guard from Rockville, Md., gave Tech a 64-61 lead on an arching bank shot over the 6-9 Pittman. But Pittman then scored, bringing Maryland back within one point.
The Rambling Wreck (6-11, 2-7) took possession, but turned the ball over to Maryland with 1:29 remaining when senior guard Dutch Morley drew a charging foul on Maurice Bradford. Maryland held the ball until 11 seconds remained, then called timeout.
Adkins, who had missed five of six shots, took a pass about 15 feet from the basket, drove into the right side of the lane and came up short on a lean-in jumper. Adkins got his own rebound on the right base line and tried a shot from behind the basket that was no good.
The next thing Adkins did was dive face first on to the floor and slam his fists on the ground in anger. "I saw an opening and I drove and took the shot," Adkins said. "On the second shot, I was just throwing it up and hoping someone could tip it in."
Asked why he played for the final shot, Driesell replied, "I don't know. I thought I wanted to play for one shot."
Tech, which entered this season with one victory in two ACC seasons, has now defeated Maryland twice this season, for its only conference victories in 1981-82. Tech defeated Maryland in Cole Field House last month, 45-43, on a last-second jumper by Thomas.
The celebration after today's victory was bigger, however. Rookie coach Cremins ran about 50 yards and leaped into the arms of guard Brook Steppe, who led Tech with 16 points.
"We lost control of it for awhile," Cremins said. "We almost threw it away. We just couldn't stop Pittman. We tried a 3-2 sag, a man-to-man sag, a 2-3 sag, but nothing worked. He had control of us. If the ball had gone to Pittman for the final shot, he would have scored again."
Driesell told the team at halftime to get the ball in to Pittman on every possession. "We should have done that the first half, but we didn't," Driesell said.
Driesell said he did not instruct Pittman or any one player to make the last shot, but he felt that Adkins' first shot was a fairly good one.
It would have been difficult to get the ball to Pittman because Cremins changed his defense on the last play and told center Lee Goza to front Pittman (Goza had stopped fronting the Maryland player after picking up his fourth foul) and prevent the lob pass inside from one of the Maryland guards.
"In the huddle during that last timeout, all I said was, 'Sag, sag, sag,' " Cremins said.
For most of the game, it didn't seem as if the outcome would rest on one last-second shot. Maryland shot 29 percent in the first half and was outrebounded, 19-9. During one sequence early in the second half, Branch and Taylor Baldwin missed three straight layups on the same possession.
Forward Herman Veal, who made only three of 11 shots, missed three consecutive shots from within the lane during one stretch.
The Terrapin defense was no better.
Howard went inside for a layup underneath, then around Veal and Pittman. Tech increased its lead early in the second half, despite a lineup that does not have a player taller than 6-feet-5. Nevertheless, Tech shot 61 percent from the field.
The Terrapins trailed only by seven, 31-24, at halftime--thanks to good shooting from the foul line and the Yellow Jackets' mistakes. The Terrapins made 15 straight free throws (25 straight over two games) before Dutch Morley, who had hit 25 straight from the line this season, missed a technical foul shot. And Tech committed 16 turnovers to Maryland's six.
That resulted when both teams were awarded two technical free throws for the Branch-Thomas fight.
"We should have beaten them by 20 points," Steppe said. "Maryland should be better, but they aren't."