After watching his Maryland team beat Duquesne convincingly, 85-64, at Cole Field House last night, Coach Lefty Driesell had a chance to catch a few minutes of the game nearly every other basketball fan in the country was watching.
"Looks like Virginia is beating Georgetown by about eight," said Driesell, smiling, as he met the press. "I just saw a little on television in there."
Driesell wore a beatific expression not because he cared who was winning in Landover. Rather, it was because he had just seen Adrian Branch, his high-scoring forward who missed Wednesday night's 64-56 loss to St. Joseph's with a knee injury, play a solid game: 15 points and six assists.
"Having Adrian in there makes all the difference," said Driesell. "We're a different team without him."
The Terrapins certainly are.
Against St. Joseph's, the Maryland squad looked disorganized, consistently losing out on fast breaks and on the boards. All that changed with Branch in the lineup. Center Ben Coleman and guard Jeff Adkins each scored 17 points and Mark Fothergill had 12, as Branch, and substitute guard Jeff Baxter led a cool, methodical offense.
"Having Adrian back in the lineup was a psychological boost," said Adkins. "It was a big lift for us. We just feel more comfortable with him in the game."
Branch decided Thursday to cancel plans for exploratory surgery on the cartilege in his left knee after consultations with two doctors. He said he felt "some soreness" last night, but did not appear to be inhibited in his movement on the floor. He opened the game with an assist to Herman Veal and continued to play a consistent leadership role.
"It was a good game to come back on," said Branch. Asked if he is completely healthy, Branch said, "As long as we win, I guess I'm 100 percent."
Maryland had little trouble shutting down Duquesne's disorganized offense.. Using a tight man-to-man defense, and occasionally shifting to a trapping zone, the Terrapins forced the Dukes to turn over the ball 24 times.
Maryland slowly built its lead in the first half, with Branch making three of four shots from the floor, and Adkins six of seven. Maryland, which shot 60 percent from the floor and 82 percent from the free throw line, led, 46-27, at the half.
"We lost to St. Joe's on our transitions. They killed us," said Driesell. "I don't think we gave up one transition basket, though, tonight in the first half."
At 9:43 of the second half, Fothergill scored on a layup to give the Terrapins a 66-42 lead. From then on, the Dukes seemed to run out of inspiration. And if there were any hopes still in the minds of the Dukes, Branch soon dashed them with a brief, but spectacular, offensive display.
After a textbook jumper, he followed 11 seconds later, at 5:50, with a twisting back-to-the-basket dunk shot that gave Maryland a 74-48 lead.
A relaxed Driesell took out his starters with nearly five minutes left.
Emmett Sellers led the scoring for Duquesne with 11 points.
After Wednesday night's sloppy loss, Driesell stalked off the floor, stamping and stomping and screaming, vowing to run the toughest practices he has ever had. The mood in the dressing room was funereal.
Last night, after Maryland improved to 3-2 and set Duquesne back to 1-3, the team looked loose and ready for Towson State and UCLA, its next two games.
Branch tried to tune in the Georgetown-Virginia game on a miniature television, but quickly gave up.
"We'll just let that pass," he said as he walked into the shower.