This wasn't exactly what Maryland had in mind for Coach Lefty Driesell's 500th career victory, having to beat a team with only seven healthy players whose coach wrote on the blackboard before the game, "If you play as hard as you can then you can hope for a miracle."
There was no miracle at Cole Field House last night, only relief for Maryland, which ripped poor Towson State, 91-38, to get Driesell his historic victory after losing four straight times.
Driesell couldn't even smoke his victory cigar because he was doused with champagne in the winning locker room. "I'm glad it's over with," Driesell said of his two-week quest for win No. 500, something only 16 other Division I coaches have ever done. "I was tired of hearing them chant, '499 . . . 499' on the road. The players wanted to win No. 500 here at home, or so that's what they told me."
Driesell, in his 25th year, also became one of only five active Division I coaches who have won that many basketball games. Yet, winning this last game had put pressure on the Terrapins (now 20-10 this season), who had lost four straight.
"We've been trying to downplay it," Chuck Driesell said. "But the pressure was there. Every game we'd wonder, 'Can this be the one for 500.' Each game, more and more pressure mounted."
Last night, before a surprisingly large crowd of 10,750, Maryland rid itself of those pressures. The Terrapins shot 61 percent, and were led by Adrian Branch's 20 points, Jeff Baxter's 14, Len Bias' 14 and Tom Jones' 12.
Every Terrapin played, Chuck Driesell taking special pleasure in scoring seven points for his father as a reserve.
"It's something special for me, being his son," Chuck said. "Years from now the two of us will be able to reflect on me being on the first Maryland team to win the ACC tournament, and the team which won 500 for him."
It was Chuck and Branch who popped the cork on the champagne, then emptied the contents on his father's bald head. "I hope that's an old suit," Chuck said before the bath.
"I don't know who's responsible for this, but whoever it is will run tomorrow," Lefty Driesell said. "I really think we ought to schedule more games like this next year, so my heart won't have to beat so fast all the time."
The joy and relief in the Maryland locker room stood in staggering contrast to the Towson State dressing area, where Coach Terry Truax, a former Maryland player, tried to comfort his players, who not only lost by 53 points, but made just 25 percent of their shots and didn't score a basket for more than 14 minutes of the second half.
Towson (7-18) had only eight players dressed for the game, and three of them fouled out, meaning Truax had no reserves by the end of the game. The starting power forward, Steffan Bunsavage, and the starting center, Greg McClinton, fouled out with more than seven minutes to play.
And even when they were in the game, Maryland's Derrick Lewis piled up a lot of his 10 blocked shots, which tied a career high.
Glenn Dieter, Towson's center, suffered a concussion in Wednesday night's loss to George Mason and did not play. Michael Fink, a freshman guard, hadn't practiced in five weeks because of a leg injury, but had to play 15 minutes last night. And guard Bill Leonard played despite a lacerated finger and bruised hip he picked up in Wednesday's game. Mark Kauffman, a football player, joined the team recently because of the losses to injury and academic ineligibility.
Add all that to the fact that Maryland, having dropped four straight, was surly and ready to beat anything that moved, and Truax knew his team had no chance. "It was like we were going to Vietnam with no gun," he said.
"To tell you the truth, the games are not as tough as practice. We're embarrassed, and we look like we're not well coached. In practice, we have to play three-on-three with an open post. It helps our defense, but it's not realistic. But the players are just happy to get out and play somebody in a game."
After last night, you had to wonder why. Maryland scored the first eight points, and led, 16-2, after the first nine minutes. Towson somehow managed to maintain that 14-point deficit until near halftime when Branch and Chuck Driesell broke loose to give the Terrapins a 38-20 intermission lead.
In the second half, Maryland scored 20 straight, and 37 of 38. The lone Tiger score came on a free throw from Bunsavage -- who led his team with 10 points -- with 9:41 left to play.
Towson didn't score again for more than seven minutes.
Truax said he took "comfort in knowing that there's never been a shutout in college basketball." He was optimistic that he would have nine players in uniform for the East Coast Conference tournament.
"This was a good chance to step away from the high pressure of the ACC," Branch said. "But there was still so much riding: Lefty's 500th, our 20th win of the season, seedings in the (NCAA) tournament.
"We really needed this. I know it was frustrating for me during the losing streak . . . We were all getting frustrated and snapping at each other."
Keith Gatlin, who had six assists last night, agreed that he and his teammates had become "fussy and moody toward each other, and there were a lot of meetings. We knew we were a good team. We won 19 games somehow, and a lot of them were against good teams."