It was a good news, bad news, good news night for Maryland basketball last night.
Good news: The Terrapins, after a horrid first half, came from 18 points down to defeat Athletes In Action, 79-76, before 5,000 fans in Cole Field House.
Bad news: Danny Ferry, the 6-foot-10 DeMatha High School senior who is sought after by every school in the Atlantic Coast Conferernce, didn't make it to the game. Coach Lefty Driesell had former Maryland star Tom McMillen of the Washington Bullets poised to give him a recruiting pitch.
Good news: Freshman Derrick Lewis, who has missed considerable practice time because of high blood pressure, was cleared by doctors to play and scored four points, contributing two key blocks and a jump shot during Maryland's comeback.
"First half, we missed about nine shots in the paint but that's why you play exhibition games," Driesell said. "The second half, we were more aggressive, especially on defense. A couple of the coaches wanted to go to zone the second half but I said, 'Heck, you got to learn to win with man to man.' I'm glad we did."
Maryland's comeback was led by Len Bias, who missed three of his first four shots, then made 10 of his last 11 on his way to a 26-point night, and Adrian Branch, who scored 23. Athletes In Action, which led, 53-35, with 17 minutes left, was led by Tracy Jackson, the former Paint Branch High School and Notre Dame star. He had 26 points, most of them coming on jump shots.
"I never played against Tracy before tonight," Branch said. "I didn't realize he was that good a player."
After his team trailed, 47-33, at halftime, Driesell went to full-court pressure -- not exactly a Maryland staple in the past -- and it worked. The Terrapins scored 12 straight points to cut the lead to 55-51 with 14 minutes to go, then chipped away steadily.
They took their first lead on Lewis' 15-foot jump shot with 5:40 remaining, completing an encouraging sequence in which the 6-7 freshman blocked two shots, made a steal and made the jumper.
"I'm just glad to be back playing," said Lewis, who found out yesterday afternoon from his mother that the doctors had said he could play. "This problem I've had has gone on such a long time, I was really getting sick of it. I'm glad I can just concentrate on learning to blend in with this team from now on."
After Lewis put Maryland on top, AIA tied the game on three occasions, before Keith Gatlin put the home team ahead for good with his only field goal of the game, a 12-foot jumper with 2:37 left.
Driesell was satisfied in the end, although he knows his team will have to play better 11 days from now when it opens the regular season in Alaska against Kansas.
"I'll worry about that later," he said. "Right now, I'm glad Derrick's back and we're starting to come together."