Maryland and sixth-ranked Georgia Tech are preparing for the Atlantic Coast Conference whine-off Tuesday night, each sulking from recent losses. A testy Lefty Driesell still is chasing an elusive 500th victory, and Bobby Cremins -- well, he's never happy anyway.
Pouting is part of the style of the Yellow Jackets, who take their cue from ever dissatisfied Coach Cremins and his favorite phrase, "We're not there yet." But if they aren't, it comes as something of a surprise to the Terrapins, who have lost twice to Georgia Tech this season and, as they are on a three-game losing streak, are likely to lose again in this game (9 p.m., WDCA-TV-20).
To hear Cremins tell it, that's nothing compared to the ailments of his team. The Yellow Jackets suffered a 62-55 loss at Virginia Sunday, and Cremins' moan could be heard all the way to Peachtree Street.
"I thought we had matured beyond that point," he said. "I just hope they'll bounce back . . . I looked at the films and we were bad."
The 20th-ranked Terrapins are in a downright funk after Sunday's upset at Clemson. Driesell's attempt at college coaching victory No. 500 is almost two weeks old, including losses to Duke and North Carolina, and the Terrapins are becoming a study in lost opportunities.
"I know what went wrong," Driesell said after practice today. "We had some guys play poorly, we turned the ball over and we missed some easy shots.
"We play close until the last three or four minutes, and then we choke up," Driesell said. "We haven't been poised or confident. I guess it's something they have to play through."
Driesell was discouraged enough after the loss to Clemson, during which they blew a five-point lead, to consider a lineup change. He even hinted at the previously unthinkable, tampering with Adrian Branch.
Branch, who averaged 18.3 points before the skid, has had only 28 points in the last three games, making 14 of 36 shots.
"I've talked to him about it," Driesell said. "I told him just to relax and enjoy himself. He's pressing or something."
The mystery has extended even to ACC scoring leader Len Bias. While he had 17 points against Clemson, he did not score in the last nine minutes. He suffered a "banged-up" right knee in the second half and came out of the game for about a minute and a half to get a bandage on it. He practiced today with a small elastic support.
Guard Keith Gatlin was the only Terrapin with an outstanding game, scoring 28 points and tying a Maryland record by hitting 10 straight field goals.
One reason for the Terrapins' losing streak might be pressure to reach Driesell's 500 mark, although he has yet to admit it.
"I couldn't tell you," he said. "I hope that's not the case, but I don't know what goes through these kids' heads."
If the Terrapins (19-9, 5-5 in the ACC) can't beat Georgia Tech, the next chance to get the monkey off Driesell's back comes against Towson State Thursday, but that would be something of an anticlimax. That's what worries Cremins.
"When people make that swing, coming in here after losing to Clemson, they come in mad," he said. "It's going to happen sooner or later. I don't think they'd like to do it against Towson. I think they'd like to do it on this trip."
Georgia Tech (18-5) leads the ACC at 7-4 and doesn't have quite as many problems as Cremins would have you think. The Yellow Jackets beat a nonslumping Maryland at Cole Field House, 72-60, two weeks ago, in what was probably their most complete game of the season.
In truth, they have more strength in more positions that perhaps any other team in the conference, between guards Mark Price and Bruce Dalrymple, 6-foot-11 center Yvon Joseph and forwards John Salley and Duane Ferrell, leading candidate for ACC rookie of the year. All his starters are averaging in double figures and Cremins' we're-not-there-yet moan has become a target of mimic among the team.
The range of talent makes them difficult to defense. The leading scorer in Georgia Tech's victory over the Terrapins earlier in the month was Joseph, a 27-year-old Haitian who killed them inside with 20 points.
Driesell said he will start Terry Long in place of Jeff Adkins in order to get more rebounds -- Clemson outrebounded Maryland last time, 30-23 -- and Dirsell may tinker with combination defenses to try to stop to Joseph.
"He beat us inside," Driesell said. "We let him get it where he wanted it. We can't let him get the ball on the low post, because he's so strong. Once he does, there's not much you can do about it."
Virginia found an answer with a packed diamond-and-one defense, collapsing on Joseph and chasing Price, the team's leading scorer at 16.3 points a game. The tactic worked. While Price had 17 points, the Yellow Jackets shot 32 percent. Joseph had three points and three rebounds, taking only three shots.