Maybe lost amidst the numbers posted by Len Bias and David Robinson today was a stretch of basketball that lasted only a little more than two minutes, yet might have been the most important run in Maryland's 64-59 NCAA tournament victory over Navy.
Maryland junior forward Tom (Speedy) Jones, a starter for much of this season but a reserve today, replaced senior guard Jeff Adkins. Jones played 22 minutes, for totals of six points and one rebound.
But all his points came in succession, just before the midpoint of the second half, and turned a five-point deficit into the Terrapins' first lead.
"I think that stretch was the turning point in the game," said Maryland point guard Keith Gatlin, who was in no small way responsible for all of Jones' baskets. "We needed a spurt at that point really bad -- I mean, really needed it."
Maryland substitute center Terry Long noticed that when he ran from the left base line to the lane, Navy center Robinson ran with him, leaving a pretty big space on the left side of the basket.
Long told Gatlin, who told Jones. And with Maryland trailing, 47-42, Gatlin looped a lob pass to the left side of the rim where Jones, who is 6 feet 6, grabbed it far above the rim and dunked.
"I almost bobbled it," Jones recalled. "I was trying to grab it too tight and throw it too hard."
On Maryland's next possession, following a shot block by Bias, Gatlin found Jones for the same lob and dunk. This time, Jones stuffed it firmly, and it was 47-46.
And when Navy's Kylor Whitaker stepped on the end line, Jones came back and stepped inside Robinson, who is 6-11, for a three-foot jumper that put Maryland ahead, 48-47, with 11 minutes remaining.
Jones said he didn't sulk about not starting, "my feelings weren't hurt. I understood. Jeff Adkins is a senior and, if we lost, this would be his last game. I knew he'd play as hard as he could to keep on playing.
"I didn't know I would start the second half until we were back on the floor. I didn't feel cold coming off the bench, though. And I feel I can get up high whether I've been playing or not."
Gatlin knows when it's important that a player get the ball.
"Speedy never let not starting get him down," he said. "And when he got in, I wanted to get him the ball as soon as possible. If you get him a good shot early, he's really assertive after that. So I gave it to him. I've never seen the big guy run so fast. He really got down court for those dunks."
Coaches like to say that dunks -- even spectacular ones -- count the same as any other basket. In Maryland's case, that sometimes just isn't true. The Terrapins seem to draw energy from an eye-popping offensive play.
"Those alley-oop dunks, they're like a drug for us," Gatlin said. "We're addicted to them. Once somebody hits one, we seem to get energy and get faster, speed up. We need it every game. And this time we didn't just get one, we got three in a row (the first by Long)."
Adkins agreed: "That sequence changed the whole momentum . . . everybody on the floor just got more fired up."