It was over. Lefty Driesell had given up. His team, it seemed, had given up. It had blown an 11-point lead in regulation and now, Miami of Ohio was about to send the Maryland Terrapins home from the NCAA tournament, the victims of a humiliating first-round defeat.
But during the final 37 seconds of overtime today, after all seemed lost, fate and Jeff Adkins intervened. By the time those final moments had been played out before 13,260 in the Dayton Arena, Driesell was kissing Adrian Branch, Adkins was a hero for tipping in the winning basket with 14 seconds left and Maryland had survived with a 69-68 victory.
"When (Ron) Harper dunked and Len Bias fouled out I thought, 'Well, the Good Lord doesn't want us to win today, let's just get outta here,' " Driesell conceded. "But the players never gave up."
Specifically, Adkins never gave up. As the teams were lining up for Harper to shoot his free throw with the Redskins leading, 66-63, and those 37 seconds to go, Adkins called his team together.
"I could see in their eyes that they thought it was over," Adkins said. "I just reminded them that we had lost games when we had been ahead like this. I'm a senior and I just didn't want it to end here, this way. I just asked them not to give up. There was still time."
Time enough for Branch to score to cut the lead to 66-65 with 27 seconds to go after Harper missed his free throw. Time enough for Eric Newsome to make it 68-65 with 24 seconds left with two foul shots for the Redskins, only to have Branch score again with 17 seconds left to make it 68-67. And, finally, time for Branch to steal the inbounds pass, put up a shot and have Adkins tip it in with 14 seconds left for the winning basket.
"I ain't used to kissing men but when we won, I went over and kissed Adrian for making that last steal," Driesell said. "It was an unbelievable way to come back and win."
Driesell was dispensing kisses and getting ready to play Navy here in the second round Sunday afternoon only because of as improbable a finish as is likely to occur in this tournament.
The Terrapins (24-11) were in command most of the game, building an early lead behind Bias (25 points), Branch (24) and Adkins (12). They led by seven at the half and by 11 early in the second half.
Miami (20-11), after getting the lead down to 50-45 with more than 10 minutes left, produced a bad shot and two turnovers on three possessions where the lead could have been cut to three.
At that point, with 8:06 left, Miami Coach Jerry Peirson called time. In the Maryland huddle, Adkins, who aspires to coaching someday, suggested to Driesell that the Terrapins go to their double high-post delay game. "A few more suggestions like that and I won't last very long as a coach," Adkins joked later. "I'll just keep my mouth shut from now on."
Driesell listened to the suggestion, although he cautioned his players that with so much time left, they still had to look for shots, even with no shot clock. "Their guards don't have very quick feet," Newsome, who is 5 feet 8, said.
Even though Bias made a three-point play on the first possession of the delay to make it 53-45, the Terrapins gave Miami a chance to use its one advantage -- quickness.
A free throw by Harper broke a five-minute scoring drought to make it 53-46 with 5:28 left. After Branch traveled, Newsome hit a 20-footer to make it 53-48. Bias (10 for 17) had a rare miss and Lamont Hanna got inside and suddenly it was 53-50 with 4:13 to go.
"We were tentative in the delay," said Maryland guard Keith Gatlin, who played 44 minutes and, despite a poor shooting day, had 10 assists. "With no clock we couldn't seem to make decisions, shoot or pass. It caught up with us in a hurry."
Indeed. After Hanna's basket, Newsome stole the ball from Derrick Lewis at midcourt and Lewis fouled him. Newsome made one to make it 53-51. Bias made a jumper but Newsome hit two foul shots to make it 55-53.
Again, Lewis was trapped at midcourt, turned it over and fouled Newsome, his fifth foul. Newsome made both shots and it was 55-55 with 2:54 left.
A miss by Bias was followed by Harper's layup with 2:30 left to make it 57-55, the Redskins' first lead of the half. Bias answered, but Hanna hit inside again before Speedy Jones made a short jumper to tie it at 59 with 1:05 left.
Miami spread, presumably to play for one shot. But Harper got fancy, tried to pass off in the lane and Bias stole the ball. Now, the Terrapins held for one. It came with three seconds left, a jumper by Gatlin in the lane that rolled out.
They traded baskets until 63-63 when Harper hit one of two foul shots with 2:16 left to put Miami up. When Branch (eight points in overtime) saw his 18-footer spin out and Harper rebounded with 1:30 to go, the Redskins spread.
Finally, Harper spotted an opening and went down the lane. Bias met him. Harper soared and dunked, and Bias was called for blocking. It was 66-63, Miami. Bias was through and so, it seemed, was Maryland's season.
"I thought, 'No, no, not like this, it can't end this way,' " said Branch, his eyes still wet after a tearful embrace with his father. "But Jeff wouldn't let us quit."
It came down to the inbounds play with 17 seconds left after Branch, Newsome and then Branch had scored, making it 68-67.
"We had them covered pretty well," Branch remembered. "The guy inbounding (Ron Hunter) took a couple steps towards me. My guy (Todd Staker) was practically out of bounds so I took a little step back. When he threw it to him, I gave him a little push and the ball hit his leg.
"I thought there might be a whistle or it might go out of bounds. But it didn't. I grabbed it and threw up a shot. Luckily, Jeff was right there."
Miami had plenty of time for a last shot but managed only a 25-footer by Newsome against the Terrapins' 1-3-1 zone trap.
The shot was way short and this time, finally, it was over. The Terrapins lived and the Redskins just sat on the floor, stunned by it all.