The three-point field goal, which is supposed to bring new excitement to Atlantic Coast Conference basketball, justified its existence tonight.

In as thrilling a game as anyone could ask for, Jimmy Braddock made a 19-foot, three-pointer with six seconds left to give North Carolina a controversial 72-71 victory over Maryland before 10,000 in Carmichael Auditorium.

Maryland, after two timeouts by each team, got the ball inbounds to Chuck Driesell with five seconds left. He dribbled twice down the right base line, past three defenders, and went up for what appeared to be the game-winning layup.

But the ball was knocked away by Tar Heels Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins, and Driesell was knocked to the ground with three seconds left. No foul was called and time expired without Maryland taking the ball out of bounds.

Coach Lefty Driesell didn't want to shake hands with North Carolina Coach Dean Smith after the game. Smith grabbed Driesell's arm, but Driesell pulled away. That angered Smith's long-time assistant, Bill Guthridge, who charged Driesell but was dragged away by Smith and other Carolina officials.

"I wanted to shake his hand, but he didn't want to," Smith said. "I grabbed his arm to shake his hand. I can understand that after a game like this."

Said Driesell: "I had to shake his hand . . . the way he came sprinting at me, I thought he was gonna tackle me. I didn't want to shake his hand."

About Guthridge, Driesell said, "I ain't afraid of anybody. I'm like Muhammad Ali. I might get whupped. But I ain't running from anybody. Bring 'em all on."

Driesell, for perhaps the first time in his career, was relatively happy after a loss.

"I told my team I loved 'em," Driesell said. "Usually, I'm a sore loser. But I don't think I could be much happier if we had won. If they're one of the top 10 teams in the nation, we couldn't be far behind. If we keep playing like this, we're gonna be tough, we're gonna be trouble. This has got to help our ball club."

Driesell could see that his Terrapins (7-4) outplayed the 11th-ranked Tar Heels despite the loss. Maryland center Ben Coleman dominated all-America Sam Perkins. Coleman made 10 of 14 shots for 20 points, got 12 rebounds and "was super," Driesell said.

But the Tar Heels (11-3) took better advantage of the three-point shot. The stat sheet shows Carolina made eight of 23 three-point attempts; it doesn't show that the Tar Heels made five of six during one stretch of the first half to erase a seven-point Maryland lead.

Maryland made twice as many two-point field goals as North Carolina (30-15) but the Tar Heels made four times as many three-pointers (8-2).

"I ain't thrilled about this three-pointer," Driesell said. "If there hadn't been one, we would have won."

Even with almost no three-point shooting and leading scorer Adrian Branch making only six of 15 from the field, Maryland led, 71-69, with 30 seconds left on a short jumper by forward Herman Veal after a nice assist from Branch.

The Tar Heels took over and worked around the perimeter, as usual, because they couldn't get the ball inside.

"I started to call timeout and tell them not to bother with the three-point shot," Smith said, "because we could play for overtime with Mark Fothergill (10 points) fouled out. I'm glad something kept my arm from going up and signaling timeout."

Smith was glad because Braddock, who had missed five of six previous three-pointers, got this 19-footer with :06 showing on the clock.

Coleman inbounded the ball to Veal at halfcourt and Maryland called time. After all the timeouts were finished, Maryland inbounded the ball to Driesell, who had played 28 minutes all season and not one second in this game.

"I know you have confidence in your son," Smith said, "but I didn't know that much."

Chuck said, "I could have pulled up for the layup, but I saw an opening."

Was he fouled? "I don't like to say the officials might have been wrong," he said. "But there was contact."

Coleman was open on the left side of the basket, but said, "I told Chuck to shoot. He had the shot. He was put in to try and win the game and he did win it. They (the officials) just didn't give it to him. They could have called a foul or goaltending and didn't do either one."

Lefty Driesell said he couldn't tell if there was a foul or goaltending, but did comment on the clock running out.

"You don't burn up five seconds with two dribbles and shoot," he said. "I ain't gonna lose no sleep over it, though. When they come to Cole (Feb. 16) the clock's gonna run out on them."