It ended as Maryland-North Carolina games often do, with disappointment for the Terrapins; only this time, the chagrin was so much more acute because so much happiness had been expected.
It seemed to be at least 85 degrees in Cole Field House and the aisles were crammed with people who didn't have tickets. People even climbed through the windows to get a peek at a they had reason to remember for many, many years.
The official attendance was announced as 14,500, but there looked to be substantially more, many fans wearing painted faces and hair of red and white, Maryland's school colors. On the night that the Terrapins tried in vain to get Lefty Driesell his 500th victory, oddity was the order of the occasion.
The men's room was like a Mexican border town. There weren't enough security men to stop those crawling through the windows, and nobody could stop the free enterprise that was taking place outside in front of the gymnasium.
Students were selling ID cards for $10 and passes for $10 more to those who insisted on getting inside.
To listen to students at the game, nobody went to class. Many waited more than three hours for their tickets, then got to Cole Field House four hours early to line up for seats.
"And when the doors finally opened (two hours before tipoff time), they just broke through," said Bill Willis, a security officer who has manned that post for six years.
Adeen Bell, a Maryland freshman, said, "This is just like a Springsteen concert." She stood with several friends wearing "Bias for President" shirts and practiced doing "The Bird," a dance they perform whenever Maryland forward Len Bias dunked.
Bell said she once met Driesell in a College Park restaurant/bar.
"He spilled a cup of beer on my head," Bell said. "I said, 'Coach, do you realize you spilled beer on my head?' And he said, 'Yeah, I'm sorry, babe.' "
Sophomore Mark Fulton sounded a common theme when he said, "If Lefty wins his 500th tonight, we're gonna light this campus up."
Distinctive fan behavior is the norm at almost any Maryland game, such as the sections of students with painted hair and skin.
But it was too big a happening, too significant a night just for students. Richie Petitbon, the Redskins' defensive coach, said he was attending his first home Maryland game in 13 years. "The last game I attended was Maryland-Carolina, and it's been so long I can't even remember who won," Petitbon said, before trying to find his seat.
His son Richie, a linebacker on Maryland's football team, said fraternities had started parties before dinner with special happy hours to honor Driesell for what they hoped would be a 500th victory celebration party.
The evening officially started at 9:04 p.m. when Driesell walked out to a fierce standing ovation and flashed his V-for-victory sign. Driesell had been awfully calm the day before in a press conference and continued to play down the possibility of winning his 500th college game against Dean Smith, long a bitter rival.
"All 500 means to me is you've been around too long," Driesell said. "I looked at the list of the people who have won 500 games or more, and you know what? They're all old."
Driesell and his modesty certainly deserved better. He deserved better shots than his team took -- and missed -- in the last three minutes.
But as a rather angry Driesell himself said afterward, "It isn't the first time they beat us."