The fortnight of agony finally should end for Maryland tonight, beginning at 8 o'clock in Cole Field House. The Terrapins almost certainly will beat Towson State -- a team that has won only seven games this season -- and at long last give Lefty Driesell his 500th victory as a college coach.
A victory also would stop Maryland's four-game losing streak, but it wouldn't erase what has happened the last two weeks, including Tuesday's 48-43 loss to Georgia Tech.
The lasting impression of that game will be Maryland, trailing by one with 35 seconds to play, failing to pressure the inbounds pass, dropping four of five players back on defense past the mid-court line and not fouling until 12 seconds were left in the game.
Whom did the Terrapins foul? Guard Bruce Dalrymple, who made his foul shots down the stretch three weeks ago against Maryland, then left Cole Field House saying, "I'm surprised they fouled me. I love being on the foul line at the end of a game." Dalrymple made both shots again Tuesday night and the game, basically, was over.
Driesell was not available yesterday to talk about why Maryland didn't pressure Tech's inbounds pass after Adrian Branch's jumper pulled the Terrapins within one, or why it took 23 seconds to foul a player when they were trailing by a point.
The Terrapins sat back almost passively, as if the score was tied or they were ahead. It was the third time Maryland lost to Georgia Tech this season, and they could meet one or two more times again before the season is over.
"I don't know if we're trying too hard or choking up at the end or what," Driesell said. "We can't seem to get over the hump."
Branch said, "We had a seven-point lead and we let it go. It's a mental letdown, maybe. Or maybe it's just a long season and the wear and tear is getting to us."
Senior guard Jeff Baxter said, "Coach has been telling us we were playing like we were down instead of up. Like losers."
One had to wonder why point guard Keith Gatlin played only 14 minutes at Georgia Tech, after making 14 of 15 shots -- including a school-record 10 straight -- against Clemson on Sunday. Only a couple of those minutes came in the second half.
What will undoubtedly help Maryland (19-10) going into this last week of regular season competition is having Towson State tonight, Wake Forest at home Sunday and Virginia at home two games later before the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament begins.
Some will remember that Maryland looked to be in similar disarray last season -- with three straight losses -- before winning its last four in the regular season, three straight en route to the ACC title and eight straight overall before being eliminated in the NCAA tournament's round of 16.
The nation's No. 2-ranked team, Georgetown, isn't on a downslide at all, but Coach John Thompson wants the Hoyas playing better than they did in a 70-46 victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday night. Georgetown's next game is Saturday at Connecticut, a game which the Hoyas will be heavy favorites to win before ending at St. John's and at home against Syracuse.
"What I've been trying to do rather than talk about teams is talk about execution," Thompson said. "There are always emotional dangers when you play two emotional games, and those are the two teams that beat us. I've said that any time you play a league game, especially on the road, you better be careful. Connecticut's sitting there saying, 'You've got those two big lollypops coming up (St. John's and Syracuse) and you're forgetting about us.' I worry more about that than the kids do, I hope. (He was speaking before Connecticut beat Syracuse last night).
"I don't think we reacted as well as we should have to (Pitt's) half-court trap," Thompson said, outlining a specific concern from Tuesday. "When they went into their half-court trap, we got very careless and very negligent. At this time of the year, you have to be much sharper than that.
"You do something like that against St. John's, they take you out of the game because they've got the talent to match with you. You've got to be alert enough to say, 'Hey, they're in their half-court trap; we're going into our half-court offense to counteract it.' "