Maryland's season opener was part good news and part bad: Len Bias can still score anytime he likes, and a few other Terrapins can score too, it turns out. But a dangerous Northeastern team led by two with 6:29 remaining and Bias fouled out before the Terrapins pulled away for an 84-72 victory last night at Cole Field House.
Northeastern had taken only its second lead of the night, 64-62, on Kevin McDuffie's 10-foot jumper. Bias scored five straight points to help Maryland assume a 68-64 margin, then he fouled out with 5:11 left.
It was exactly the situation Maryland had been dreading: going down the stretch without Bias, the leading scorer in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season. But the Terrapins proceeded to outscore the Huskies by 16-8 over the remaining five minutes, getting eight points from guard Keith Gatlin.
"That was encouraging," Maryland Coach Charles G. Driesell said. "The bottom could have fallen out when Len left, we could have gone downhill. But they said we've got to do it now."
Until Jeff Baxter made a dunk as time ran out, the Terrapins never led by more than 10 over Northeastern, which has won back-to-back ECAC North Atlantic Conference titles.
Bias finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, and Gatlin had 20 points and 11 assists to help negate Northeastern's Reggie Lewis, a 6-foot-7 forward who was the leading sophomore scorer in the nation last year.
A product of Baltimore's Dunbar High School, Lewis, who averaged 24 points a game last season, had 30 last night, many on important occasions. But he was limited to two free throws in the final five minutes.
"We did feel we had the game," Lewis said. "But we seemed to let up when Bias fouled out."
Although Maryland couldn't quite pull away, Northeastern led just twice in the game, and the first came in the opening moments on Lewis' free throw. But with 6:29 remaining, 6-8 forward McDuffie made his second straight jumper for Northeastern's second lead, 64-62.
It completed a 10-3 run for the Huskies. Six of those points came from Lewis.
However, Bias then made his move. Tom (Speedy) Jones made one free throw, and Bias rebounded Jones' missed second free throw and laid it in to give Maryland a 65-64 lead.
Bias drew the foul from McDuffie in the process and completed a three-point play with 5:20 left. Seconds later, Bias made a 16-foot jumper from the base line to make 68-64.
But Bias then committed his fifth foul. It sent Ernie Hall to the line for a pair of free throws that made it 68-66, but Maryland went on its run.
"When you're up by two with five minutes remaining, you're supposed to win," Northeastern Coach Jim Calhoun said. "We just didn't do some things down the stretch that we had done the rest of the game."
The best news of the night was that Maryland spread its scoring around, as Driesell had promised the Terrapins would in preseason. The main concern had been whether the Terrapins could take the scoring burden off of Bias, who averaged 19 points last year. Gatlin seems to have staked his claim as Bias' help.
Guard Jeff Baxter helped, too, with 13 points and five assists. Derrick Lewis, moved back to his true forward position after playing center as a freshman, had nine points, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots, although he failed to do much about Reggie Lewis defensively. Jones, a reserve, had nine points and eight rebounds.
Terry Long, starting at center, was something of a presence, although not as much as the Terrapins would have liked, with four points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.
Several freshmen looked as if they would have potential as well: foremost was second guard John Johnson, who had four points and an assist in nine minutes. Tony Massenburg, a 6-9 forward, made a short appearance, and 6-9 forward David Gregg also played briefly.
Northeastern had definite upset potential. The last time the Huskies faced an ACC team was in 1983-1984, when they lost to North Carolina State, 77-74, in Raleigh, N.C. But they shot only 29 percent in the first half as Maryland took a 38-32 lead before improving to 51 percent in the second half.
Northeastern has several former local prep stars on the roster. Besides Lewis, there was McDuffie, a 6-8 sophomore forward, and Melvin Bartee, a 6-0 freshman guard, both from Baltimore's Lake Clifton High; 6-8 sophomore forward-center Kevin Lee of Archbishop Carroll; and 6-7 forward Ernie Hall, a freshman out of Spingarn who had four points.
The Huskies had two players besides Lewis in double figures: guard Andre LeFleur with 11 points, and guard John Williams with 12.
McDuffie had nine points, two rebounds and a blocked shot.