A sightseeing trip and a tour of Disneyland did little to improve the mood of Maryland's basketball team today. The Terrapins left the west coast tonight thinking they should have gone farther in the NCAA tournament.
Instead, Maryland's 70-64 loss to Nevada-Las Vegas Sunday knocked them out in the second round of the West regional and ended their season at 19-14. The Runnin' Rebels (33-4) will go on to the round of 16 in Houston to meet Auburn (21-10), which upset fourth-ranked St. John's (31-5), 81-65.
"The season is over," all-America forward Len Bias said. "People keep asking me how I feel. The season's over. How am I supposed to feel?"
In short, it was a season of severe emotional swings and sudden reversals. To make the final 16 might have been too much to ask of a team that lost eight of 10 games and six straight Atlantic Coast Conference games before collecting itself. But the Terrapins also had accomplishments.
Perhaps foremost was their 77-72 upset of North Carolina in overtime at the Dean E. Smith Student Activities Center Feb. 20. The Tar Heels were ranked No. 1, and had not lost in that arena. Maryland then went one better by defeating the Tar Heels a second time, 85-75, in the first round of the ACC tournament.
"That was what got us going," Bias said. "It's not often we beat Carolina. And we don't usually beat Carolina twice in a season."
A team with just one established player (Bias) that seemed to have little hope, Maryland suddenly found itself toward the end of the season. The Terrapins won four of their last five and six of their last eight in the regular season
"We're right there with all these teams," Coach Lefty Driesell said. "We went a lot farther than people thought we would."
Bias best expressed the Terrapins' disappointment after Sunday's loss to UNLV, and he did it without speaking. After scoring 31 points in his final collegiate game, including 19 of his team's last 21 to bring the Terrapins within 63-62 with 40 seconds left, he was a portrait of heartbreak. He sat alone in front of his locker with a towel draped over his head and his hands covering his face.
"I wish we could have gone on," Bias said today. "I'm happy we got to the tournament, and happy we got to the second round. But I felt like we could have gone a lot farther."
Bias' season certainly was a personal success. He averaged 22.9 points to lead the ACC in scoring, and was named conference player of the year for the second straight season. He was named first team all-America by both the Associated Press and United Press International. He is widely expected to be one of the first three picks in the NBA draft.
"He's a great player and a great athlete," Driesell said. "And I would think he's going to be a very rich young man in a couple of months. If not, someone is blind."
For the other seniors, the Terrapins' final stretch was a redemption of sorts. Guard Jeff Baxter became a key man in the turnaround, averaging 9.8 points to give Bias badly needed scoring help. Forward Tom (Speedy) Jones settled in as the top reserve, averaging eight points.
"Coming into the tournament we knew we had a great chance," Baxter said. "We had our confidence, we thought it was our turn. I think a lot of that was voided by the loss."
If there was one area where Maryland lost the game, it was rebounding. UNLV often got three or four shots at a time, while the Terrapins usually had to make do with one. They were outrebounded, 40-36, and the margin was 17-9 on the offensive end.
"It didn't seem like they had just five guys out there," Derrick Lewis said. "I'd block a shot, and I'd turn around and there'd be another one coming from the other direction. There were all these Armon Gilliams running around, all the same size."
Now Maryland must wonder what life after Bias will be like. It may not be as glum as it would seem, however. The Terrapins have three key returnees in point guard Keith Gatlin, forward Lewis, and shooting guard John Johnson. They also have center Terry Long, who had a mediocre season but gained valuable confidence. Freshmen centers Tony Massenburg and David Gregg showed flashes of talent, as did first-year forward Dave Dickerson and guard Gregg Nared.
Maryland also has a couple of well-thought-of recruits in Andre Reyes, a 6-11 center from South Carolina, and Teon McCoy, a guard from Indiana, plus two of the top Washington-area players, 6-6 forward Steve Hood of DeMatha and 6-7 forward Mark Karver of Bethesda-Chevy Chase.
"It will be strange without Lenny," Lewis said. " . . . But we have to put back the pieces and come back to play well next year."