Len Bias, who scored the basket today that allowed Maryland to avoid one of the most embarrassing upsets in the school's history, said it best: "That was an ugly win."
There wasn't much else to say after the Terrapins needed Bias' short bank shot with two seconds left to beat Alaska-Anchorage, 54-52, in a consolation game of The Great Alaska Shootout.
Maryland (1-1) will play Tennessee for fifth place at 4 p.m. Sunday. Tennessee beat Idaho State today, 65-59.
Maryland almost ended up in the seventh-place game. Alaska-Anchorage is a Division II team. It is small and it is slow. It shoots poorly. Yet, after trailing by 11 points with 11 minutes left, the Seawolves, who outrebounded Maryland, 44-40, had the ball in the final minute with the score tied.
"I was shocked, to say the least," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said. "Maybe we were flat after losing to Kansas (another 11-point lead was wasted in that game) or something. The only good thing about the game was that we won. We were lucky. They outscrapped us and they outhustled us. It never should have been that close."
Maryland escaped because Alaska, with the crowd of 2,843 actually filling Sullivan Arena with noise, could not take advantage of the gift the Terrapins tried to hand it on a silver platter. In the last seven minutes, Maryland missed seven of eight free throws, including the front end of four one and ones.
But at the end, it was Alaska that missed a crucial free throw. After Kevin Smith tied the score on a 17-foot jump shot with 1:22 left, Adrian Branch was called for charging at midcourt. The Seawolves spread their offense and Gerald Brown (10 points) was fouled with 58 seconds left. But he missed the foul shot and Maryland was able to run the clock down before Jeff Adkins fed Bias for the winning basket.
Outside of Bias, who shot 10 for 18, scored 21 points and had nine rebounds, Maryland shot horrendously. Branch (14 points) was five for 12, Keith Gatlin was zero for four, Adkins four for 11 and the team was eight of 18 from the foul line. Alaska was even worse, shooting 32 percent from the field.
"When we got down 11 and had to go man to man, I thought we were in big trouble," said Seawolves Coach Harry Larrabee. "But our kids hung tough and fought right down to the end."
The Terrapins, who were bitterly disappointed after blowing their opener to Kansas Friday, never got in gear today. Driesell changed his starting lineup, going with freshman Derrick Lewis up front, swinging Branch to guard and benching Adkins.
In spite of themselves, the Terrapins managed to stumble to a 27-19 halftime lead, thanks largely to Alaska. Although the Seawolves are a well-drilled team, they cannot shoot well. Brown, their leading scorer, is a microcosm of the team. He has shot 17 for 59 (28 percent) this season.
Because Alaska shot 29 percent in the first 20 minutes, Maryland had an eight-point lead. The lead was 11 with 11 minutes to go before the Terrapins began to slowly fold before their own amazed eyes.
"It was just like the Kansas game," Adkins said. "I kept looking at the scoreboard, at the clock, and the same thing was happening. It was unbelievable."
It still looked as if Maryland was going to cruise to an unimpressive victory until Alaska began fouling down the stretch. Twice, Terry Long missed one-and-one front ends, Lewis missed one, Bias missed one. Branch missed both ends of a two-shot chance. "I can't remember the last time I did that," he said, shaking his head.
From 52-48 with four minutes left, Alaska pulled even. John Larsen hit a 12-foot jumper with 3:40 to go, and Driesell, even though his delay had failed Friday, spread out the offense. At that point, Bias missed his one and one. Smith (11 points) had a jumper go in and out, and the Terrapins had the ball. This time it was Lewis who missed at the line. Smith tried again at the other end and rattled in his jumper to tie the score and set up the frenetic last minute.
"I don't know what to say," Driesell said. "We got a lot of guys who aren't playing well at all." He was asked if he might change his starters again Sunday.
"I don't know," Driesell said. "They way we're playing, I might start."