Try to figure Dennis Scott. He was coming home, or as close as he was going to get this year with his Georgia Tech team. Scott was nervous because a slew of family and friends were going to be in Cole Field House to watch him and his team play Maryland.
So what does he do in the locker room beforehand? He takes a nap.
"I just took a little nap," Scott said with a smile. "I was a little nervous. But once the adrenalin starts flowing and I started sweating, I just blocked it all out."
Actually, not all of it. Scott had a splendid view of the basket and registered a career-high 29 points as Georgia Tech defeated Maryland, 96-83, last night in front of 14,500 at Cole.
Georgia Tech's Duane Ferrell and Tom Hammonds are both in the top five in scoring in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the Terrapins held them to 15 and 10 points, respectively. Maryland lost because it could not contain Scott and Brian Oliver, who had 25 points. Frequently, Oliver's scoring chance came after the Yellow Jackets sliced through a confused Maryland press.
"We blew assignments on the press," Maryland Coach Bob Wade said. "We did a good job on Hammonds and Ferrell. We did a lousy job on Scott."
The Terrapins trailed most of the way, but cut the Georgia Tech lead to 81-75 with 3:34 left in the game. That was as close as they got.
The victory pushed the Yellow Jackets to 16-6 overall and 3-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Maryland had won two nonconference road games coming into last night, but the loss was its third in a row in the ACC and dropped its record to 12-7, 3-4.
Some, but certainly not all of the loss may be attributed to the absence of freshman center Brian Williams, who watched in a suit after severely spraining his left ankle in Saturday night's victory over Old Dominion.
Team physician Stan Lavine said before the game that pain and swelling in the ankle is keeping Williams from playing. Lavine said he did not think Williams would be able to play Wednesday when the Terrapins are at Clemson, but said that there might be a chance of Williams playing Saturday here against Duke.
"Anytime you lose 14 or 15 consistent points, it hurts," Wade said. "But I still thought we had the personnel to win."
Even with Williams, the Terrapins might have had a difficult time beating the Yellow Jackets, who hit 60 percent of their shots, including nine of 12 from three-point range. "Maryland did not have Brian Williams," Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins said. "They were missing a great player. That's number one. Number two is we played a great game. We shot the ball extremely well. We just played outstanding basketball. That's what we had to do in order to win in a place like this. We're lucky Maryland was not at full strength. But we really played an outstanding game."
The 6-7 Scott was one of the most highly recruited players in the country last year while playing for Flint Hill Academy in Oakton. The reason for the interest was clear last night: Scott can flat out shoot. As is often the case, he was more accurate from outside the three-point line (five of seven) than from inside it (six of 14).
"Dennis Scott played really well," said Cremins. "The kid came to play. He made some big ones. When Maryland was making a run, he made a big three-pointer. The place was rocking but that kind of quieted it down a little bit."
Keith Gatlin was the most consistent outside threat for Maryland and finished with a team-high 22 points. Derrick Lewis was right behind with 21.
Lewis stole a pass at midcourt and went in solo for the dunk, then stole another pass and set up Rudy Archer for a three-pointer from the right wing that gave Maryland a 21-19 lead with 12:17 left in the first half. That would be the last Maryland lead of the game.
After a timeout, the Yellow Jackets started to hit from the outside, Oliver and Scott hitting jumpers, Scott and Craig Neal hitting three-pointers, Neal's putting Georgia Tech ahead, 32-27, with 7:47 and extracting a timeout from Wade.
The Yellow Jackets also were using a press. They set up in 2-2-1 half-court trap and then fell into mainly a man-to-man. Whether it was the Georgia Tech defense or the Terrapins' offense, Maryland wasn't getting many points inside. Massenburg was just one of five from the field, and though Lewis was four of seven, most of his shots were medium-range jumpers.
"We didn't run our offense well, to put it nicely," Lewis said.
When the Terrapins did look good offensively, they then couldn't stop the Yellow Jackets. Neal tied a school record with 14 assists, many coming in situations where Georgia Tech had broken Maryland's press.
Gatlin scored off a missed shot by Archer to cut the Georgia Tech lead to 66-61 with 8:54 left in the game, but Maryland couldn't get any closer because it couldn't stop the Yellow Jackets.
"Some of the people didn't know whether we were in a zone press or a man-to-man press," said Lewis, who frequently was confronted with two-on-one situations. "That led to breakdowns."