Just when Maryland appears to be on the brink of proving it might be one of the top 20 teams in the nation, the Terrapins prove they aren't.
Instead of working the ball inside as they had in winning 10 of their last 11 games, the Terrapins apparently thought they were Hall of Fame jump shooters. The result was a 70-60 loss to Georgia Tech tonight before 5,619 in Alexander Coliseum.
Maryland sophomore Adrian Branch missed nine of 10 shots, including six of seven three-point attempts, and scored only four points, 15 under his average. "That's the worst game he's played since he's been at Maryland," Coach Lefty Driesell declared.
The rest of the Terrapins weren't much better. Herman Veal missed four of five shots. Jeff Adkins missed seven of 10. Maryland shot 42 percent.
Only center Ben Coleman played well for Maryland, which fell to 17-7, 6-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He made all six of his shots from the field and scored a team-high 17 points before missing a meaningless dunk in the final seconds. Coleman also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
The way Coleman was playing, he could have scored 40 tonight. But the Terrapins were so happy flinging up unintelligent shots from the outside, nobody bothered to look for Coleman inside. Of Maryland's 50 field goal attempts, 20 were would-be three-pointers.
Combine that poor shot selection with Georgia Tech's active zone defenses, and it wasn't hard to figure out how the Yellow Jackets (4-8, 12-12) could win here after losing by nine points in College Park last month.
The stars for Georgia Tech were freshman guard Mark Price, the league's leading scorer, and center John Salley, who held his own with the much bulkier Coleman.
"Salley played a great inside game," Tech Coach Bobby Cremins praised. "Salley split up tonight. He equalized Coleman. We had to have some kind of power game to go along with the perimeter game."
Salley made four of five shots and seven of eight free throws in totaling 15 points and nine rebounds.
The perimeter game Cremins spoke of consisted primarily of Price's outside shooting. He had 19 points, making three of four three-point tries.
As poorly as Maryland played in the first half the game was tied, 28-all.
"I thought we had a chance since we played so sorry in the first half but were still tied," said Driesell. "But we played even sorrier the second half."
Price started the second half with a three-pointer with no Maryland defender within 10 feet, to make it 31-28, and Geoorgia Tech never relinquished the lead.
Maryland pulled up to 46-45 but Price's three-pointer from the top of the key pulled the Yellow Jackets away.
The Terrapins ruined whatever chance they had of coming back by continually committing turnovers. Branch had seven of the team's 18.
And Tech made eight straight free throws in the final 2:25, four by Maurice Bradford, to secure the victory.