A funny thing happened here at The Coliseum tonight. Maryland tried to run. It gets even funnier when you consider that Maryland tried to run against the Georgia Bulldogs, whose specialty is running.
The result was predictable. Georgia, led by the irrepressible Dominique Wilkins and senior guard Eric Marbury, who had his best college game, beat Maryland, 83-69, in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament.
Wilkins, a sleek 6-foot-7 all-America, scored 23 points and excited the 7,049 fans with three spectacular dunks in the second half. But it was Marbury, with a career-high 25 points, who dominated Maryland. Most of his 10 baskets (in 16 attempts) came in the transition game, after missed shots by Maryland.
"You expect that from Wilkins," said Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell. "But Marbury was only averaging nine points a game."
Wilkins sat out about seven minutes of the second half when he drew his fourth foul with Georgia ahead, 48-39. "Wilkins played great, but something that made us feel good was the fact that we were able to increase our lead in the second half with Wilkins out of the game," Georgia Coach Hugh Durham said.
Maryland thus ends the season at 16-13.
"How would I assess the season?" Driesell repeated. "I think it turned out great. I don't think many people thought we'd win 16 games this year. You can't judge a whole season by the last game. But if you did it that way, we were sorry."
Maryland wasn't sorry tonight. It just looked that way because the Terrapins fell behind early and tried to run with the Bulldogs (18-11).
"Our players thought they could run with those guys," Driesell said. "I told them if they tried to run, Georgia would beat us. We're not a fast-break ball club. We can't run against anybody."
"We ran more than we ever should have," said forward Mark Fothergill. "We even did a poor job of not running. I guess we just got caught up in the go, go, go of things."
When the Terrapins controlled the tempo early, they played Georgia evenly. Charles Pittman (21 points) and Adrian Branch (22 points) played well in spurts, exploiting the Bulldogs' defensive weaknesses.
But Maryland shot just 41 percent; many of the missed shots came on open 15-footers during semifast breaks. Georgia shot 53 percent from the field.
"They were giving us the 15-footer and we couldn't hit it," said Maryland's Pete Holbert, who missed all four of his shots from the field.
Maryland also stayed in foul trouble the second half. Fothergill, who guarded Wilkins with some success in the first half, fouled out of the game with 11 minutes to play. Branch had four fouls, and five other Terrapins had three fouls.
"I haven't criticized the officiating since I've been (at Maryland)," Fothergill said. "But they protected Dominique all night. We were both doing the same things, but all the calls went against me."
One stretch in the game is worth recounting. Maryland, having trailed, 37-28, at halftime, fell behind, 60-45, midway through the second half.
The Terrapins then scored 10 straight points: eight by seniors Dutch Morley and Pittman, and two by Branch. All of a sudden, the Terrapins had pulled to within 60-55.
The Bulldogs finally called time with 6:45 to play. Forward James Banks broke Maryland's rally with a pull-up jumper, which pushed Georgia's lead to 62-55.
The next play was pivotal. Branch, on a drive down the lane, was called for charging, which negated his basket. Banks subsequently scored a turnaround jumper at the other end for a 64-55 lead. Holbert missed on Maryland's next possession, and when Vern Fleming made a short jumper for a 66-55 lead, Maryland's hopes for extending its season had ended.
"I guess I could have charged," said Branch. "I was trying to draw the three-point play. We were just about to make them play."