When the plane it was supposed to fly here in developed hiccups, or something dangerous, Maryland's basketball team wasted an hour or so arranging for a backup. When roaches started fast-breaking in the Terrapins' rooms not long after arrival, they switched hotels.

And for what?

To play Clemson.

In the box score, the well-coached and scrappy guys Maryland beat Friday were the Waves of Pepperdine. In truth, they could have been anybody whose fans also dress in wild-orange costumes and who play just competently enough to make the Terrapins uneasy.

Such is life in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Seeded teams such as the Terrapins hope to be splendid but almost never are. All they expect is to survive. Having accomplished that, however inelegantly, they smile sheepishly and visit their new neighbors, Donald Duck and Snow White, on the off-day.

Very often, the worst that teams play in months is the first round of the NCAA tournament. Too much flying; too few spectators in a foreign gym; too little respect for the seldom-seen opposition from a lightly regarded conference.

Verification comes from none other than the host of the Indiana charm spa, Robert Montgomery Knight.

Cleveland who?

Maryland also had a very good, though mostly unknown, opponent. Pepperdine was 25-4 this season and includes the Boston Celtics' Dennis Johnson among its alums. Still, it sounds like a place for toothpaste research.

The surprise Friday would have been for Maryland to wave the Waves bye-bye before the final 18 seconds. Anyone among the 250 turtle-watchers here not nervous before tipoff had to be a rookie.

Last year's Pepperdine was Miami of Ohio; Maryland won by a point, in overtime. Three years ago, Maryland barely escaped the Pepperdine of the South, Tennessee-Chattanooga, 52-51.

"I said all my players had to play good and that two had to play very good for us to win," said the Pepperdine coach, Jim Harrick. "That didn't happen. All Maryland's guys played good. One of them played very, very, very good."

Len Bias excited those in the Pepperdine-biased crowd; nobody else did. If the nearby Queen Mary suddenly reared out of the Pacific near the cocktail hour, it was because Bias was all but ripping the basket in Long Beach Arena from its roots with a slammer.

Actually, there was one other entertaining scene. That was Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell trying to convince an official that a Pepperdine player had fouled Bias during a base-line basket.

With merit, Driesell was convinced the defender had bumped Bias with his belly. So Driesell hopped up and down the sideline patting his own considerable stomach. Alas, all that got altered was his lunch.

Had the Waves the good sense to hack somebody but Bias with 37 seconds left, there might have been delirium in Malibu Friday night.

Maryland was ahead by just two points at the time, Derrick Lewis and Keith Gatlin having missed three foul shots in the previous minute. Bias was 10 for 12 from the line when he toed it once more.

When his first shot swished, Bias raised both arms and clinched his fists. When his second shot dropped cleanly, he gestured No. 1 to the crowd.

Lenny, you're a senior. You should know better.

If there's a chance to make first-round NCAA games dramatic, your Terrapins will find it. Sure enough, Anthony Frederick made a seemingly impossible rebound and followup to narrow the lead to two points.

That was the continuation of a familiar theme: every time the Terrapins seemed to get matters under control, the Waves would crash back with something dandy.

Dwayne Polee was the early problem, with 10 points and three rebounds during a dead-even (31-31) first half. Jeff Baxter caused him to miss all five field-goal tries and score just two points the final 20 minutes.


Not to the Terrapins.

" Baxter said he'd stop him the second half," Bias said.

For Bias, his usually unerring outside shot was hitting iron instead of net in the early going. So he simply moved inside -- and ended with 26 points.

That was how it went all evening for Maryland. Open shots were available against the Pepperdine zone. Patience got 'em; eventually, they fell.

The Waves' crest came with about seven minutes left in the game, when Bias faked one way and drove by Eric White for an apparent layup.

Up from the cracks in the floor, or somewhere unseen, the 6-7 Frederick arose and swatted the ball away. Baxter controlled the block, then lost the ball on an entry pass to Lewis.

Fortunately, even appropriately for Maryland, last week's sad figure was a hero. Gatlin nailed both shots on a deliberate foul with 18 seconds remaining. Lewis soon atoned for his earlier misses, and you could see Terrapin shells heaving with relief.

"We played well enough for the first round," Baxter said. "You always have jitters before that one. We're going to do well in Sunday's second round against Nevada-Las Vegas . We're ready to do well.

"We're very confident."

"We didn't celebrate," Bias said. "We're just starting to click."