The pattern is becoming increasingly clear. When Ben Coleman stays out of foul trouble long enough to exert himself in the pivot, Maryland is a good basketball team.
Coleman, a 6-foot-9 junior center, scored 19 points, got nine rebounds, blocked five shots and made clutch foul shots yesterday and helped Maryland to a 68-67 victory over Notre Dame before 7,210 Redskins-conscious fans at Cole Field House.
Maryland had distributed 13,500 tickets for this game--a sellout--but almost half their owners stayed away, almost certainly to watch the Redskins' victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC championship game.
"I was kind of shocked at the crowd, but I've lived here long enough to know the Redskins are first priority," said Maryland forward Adrian Branch, who scored 18 points.
Many of those who did come watched miniature portable televisions in the stands and didn't pay much attention to the basketball before them until the last seven minutes (after the Redskins' final score was announced) when Maryland fought off repeated comeback efforts by Notre Dame (10-6).
The Terrapins (9-5) needed eight straight foul shots in the last 1:38, including four from Herman Veal, to break Notre Dame's four-game winning streak and tie the yearly series between these schools at five-all.
Maryland led, 58-51, with 2:01 remaining, after two flying dunks by Coleman and a foul shot by Jeff Baxter. But the Irish weren't through.
Substitute Jim Dolan, a freshman forward who scored a game-high 20 points, made an offensive rebound basket and two foul shots to pull the Irish within 60-57 with 1:04 left.
Mark Fothergill's dunk and Baxter's two foul shots increased the Terrapins' lead. But John Paxson made consecutive 25-footers to keep Notre Dame close at 64-61 with 25 seconds left.
Maryland got into trouble when Fothergill bobbled away an inbounds pass, which led to Tim Kempton's inside basket with 14 seconds left. That cut the Terrapins' lead to one.
Veal, a 74 percent foul shot shooter who almost never misses in the clutch, made two foul shots with 11 seconds left, then two more with two seconds left.
Notre Dame's Tom Sluby, from Gonzaga High School, made a meaningless last-second jumper for the final margin.
"After the first free throw," said Veal, "it was downhill. I just wanted to make sure my form was right."
Maryland made 26 of 35 foul shots; Notre Dame made nine of 12. In the second half, Maryland took more foul shots than field goal attempts. Those statistics were not lost on Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps.
"When we shoot 12 foul shots and they shoot 35, there's too much of an imbalance," Phelps said. "Especially when they shoot 12 in the first half and we shoot none."
But Phelps was also quick to point out that Maryland "outplayed us."
The Terrapins shot more foul shots, largely because they elected to work the ball inside to Coleman and Branch. When those two players are on, it will be difficult for any team to beat Maryland.
As Phelps said, "We said we had to stop Coleman and Branch, and they go 11 for 18."
Meanwhile, Notre Dame got the ball inside to Kempton now and then--he had eight points--but for the most part took jump shots from the wings.
And Maryland played superb defense against Paxson, Notre Dame's 18-point-per-game scorer.
"Our defense on Paxson was excellent," Coach Lefty Driesell said. "We contained him until the last minute."
Paxson made seven of 14 shots, but made only two of six in the first half (he made three in the last 44 seconds). Paxson complained afterward that the officials allowed Jeff Adkins and Baxter, the Terrapins guarding him, too much hand-checking on defense.
"He pivots a lot before he dribbles," Baxter said. "I tried to jump at him and beat him to those spots before he could pivot."