Maryland trailed until 6:27 remained last night, and that's about how long it took the Terrapins to start playing well. But in the end they soft-shoed their way to one of their better basketball victories this season, 60-58, over previously undefeated Alabama at Cole Field House.
Maryland trailed by five at the half, with all-America forward Len Bias scoreless. Bias got untracked and Maryland (7-2) caught up with an Alabama team that came in at 6-0.
The Terrapins took control with 2:08 left when Bias, who ended with 14 points, rebounded his own miss and made a soft layin to give Maryland a 53-52 lead. From there the Terrapins built a five-point lead with 37 seconds remaining.
"I'm elated," Coach Charles G. Driesell said. "I thought that was a big win for us . . . I've never seen Len miss so many shots. But in the end he hit some big ones for us."
Bias was four of 14 from the floor against a tightly packed Alabama zone that kept the Terrapins off balance all night and never really let them work inside. Alabama led for just under 35 minutes as a front-court combo of 6-7 forward Buck Johnson and 6-9 center Derrick McKey did what it pleased. Johnson finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds, McKey with 17 points and nine rebounds.
Overall, the Crimson Tide outrebounded the Terrapins, 35-29, and shot 43 percent to 41 for Maryland. The Terrapins shot just 30 percent from the field in the first half, Bias going zero for five and Keith Gatlin, a strong second-half factor, just one for six.
"From a statistical standpoint, we did everything it took to win," said Alabama Coach Wimp Sanderson. "We outrebounded them, out-field-goaled them, and we did a pretty good job on Bias. It just wasn't quite good enough."
Maryland took its five-point lead after Alabama guard Terry Coner missed a jumper and Derrick Lewis got the rebound to set up Gatlin's 17-footer with 52 seconds to play. That made it 55-52, and at :45 Alabama's Johnson was called for traveling.
That repossession turned into Jeff Baxter's two free throws, which gave Maryland a 57-52 lead with 37 seconds left. Forward Jim Farmer scored inside at :30 to cut it to 57-54, but Alabama was reduced to sending Maryland to the free throw line, and the Terrapins negotiated their way from there.
Bias has scored 20 points or more in five games this season, and to go scoreless in the first half was a rarity in his career. "I don't think it's happened since junior high school," said Gatlin.
The explanation lay in the fact that Maryland made little effort to go to him, or anyone else inside, in the first half. The Terrapins' guards took 19 shots in the period compared to seven for the front court.
"They packed it in there, and we missed some jumpers," Bias said. "We tried to push it in more in the second half, and that was the key."
Maryland's freshmen and reserves played well in light of Bias' troubles. The Terrapins went with two freshmen in the lineup at first, guard John Johnson and center Tony Massenburg making their second straight starts. Massenburg may have earned another with his work: nine points and six rebounds in 27 minutes.
In the second half, the Terrapins switched to their "big" lineup, Tom (Speedy) Jones replacing Johnson at second guard. He responded with 10 points, seven rebounds, a block and two assists in 23 minutes, shooting five of six from the floor.
Maryland spread the rest of the scoring around. Gatlin wound up with 11 points and five assists, Lewis 11 points and seven rebounds.
Maryland, down by 40-35, started to make its move with 10:19 remaining when Bias' base line jumper broke a four- minute scoreless spell by both sides. Buck Johnson hit two free throws, but Lewis then delivered the sequence of the night. He got two points on a goaltending call, then took advantage of another Alabama turnover to hit on a short hook. That made it 42-41 with 9:07 left.
Maryland took its first lead 2 1/2 minutes later on a jumper by Gatlin.