With a career-high 33 points from Matt Roe, five other players in double figures and a sellout crowd roaring its approval, Maryland probably deserved to win last night's ACC game against Georgia Tech.
And when Kenny Anderson's last-second attempt at a game-tying three-pointer drew nothing but air, the Terrapins, returning to Cole Field House after losing three straight conference road games, had done just that, taking a stirring 96-93 decision.
"Those players are unbelievable," said Coach Gary Williams. "We got kicked pretty good on the road but they never lost confidence in their ability to come back and win. If your players don't have that kind of backbone, it doesn't matter what you do on offense or defense."
All three elements -- offense, defense and heart -- were in abundance, particularly during the tense, waning minutes. Maryland (13-10, 3-7) was clinging to an 88-84 lead when Vince Broadnax stripped Jon Barry of the basketball and went the length of the floor for a layup with 1:52 remaining.
Anderson (30 points) came back with a jumper for Georgia Tech (13-9, 5-6, three straight losses) and the Yellow Jackets called a timeout to set up a press. But after play resumed, Garfield Smith broke free for another layin to put the Terrapins ahead 92-86 with 1:29 to play.
Many in the crowd of 14,500 began to celebrate, but the raucousness was premature. Barry (23 points) hit a free throw. Then, after Maryland turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds play, Anderson fed Ivano Newbill for a dunk.
With 33 seconds remaining, Anderson hit a jumper to cut Georgia Tech's deficit to 95-93; 11 seconds later, Roe slipped and fell, losing the ball out of bounds. Another 11 seconds had passed when Evers Burns fouled Matt Geiger on a drive to the basket. The Yellow Jackets' center lay stunned on the floor for a few minutes and, still woozy after rising, was unable to shoot the foul shots.
Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins chose senior Brian Domalik to take the shots, but the reserve guard missed both attempts. With nine seconds left, Burns made the front end of a one-and-one, putting Maryland ahead by three but giving Anderson a chance to tie the game.
The flashy sophomore quickly got to the top of the three-point circle, eschewing an open teammate to the left to rise for the shot against Broadnax, who got himself between the shooter and the hoop. That may have been enough to alter Anderson's shot, which fell into the hands of Matt Downing, who dribbled out the clock as the last second ticked off.
"When I got the ball I felt excited. I thought I could make something happen," Anderson said. "But when I went up the ball slipped out of my hands and I had to catch it again. I lost my leverage so when it left I knew it wasn't going to be good."
Maryland had lost five in a row to Georgia Tech and 15 of 16.
The Terrapins came out intent on avenging an 80-65 loss in Atlanta 12 days ago, when Georgia Tech scored 18 of the first 20 points and led 43-18 at halftime.
Roe shot nine for 25 in that game and was 20 for 61 (less than 33 percent) during the losses to Tech, Clemson and Duke. The start of this week was further hampered by the flu and the revelation that the transfer student from Syracuse had been questioned by the NCAA in its investigation of the basketball program at his old school.
"I was in bed all day," he said. "I took some medication before the game and tried to get ready. . . . I've been in two tough situations, leaving a program that's being investigated to go to one that's on probation -- it's tough to concentrate on basketball sometimes."
Roe scored 21 points to help the Terrapins to a 47-46 halftime lead, but Maryland didn't get a field goal in the first 4:02 of the second half, falling behind 58-53 with 15:09 remaining.
But Smith scored three straight baskets to start a 26-10 spurt that put Maryland in front 79-68 with 7:36 left. Roe scored seven points during the run, but the move was really triggered by defense. Cedric Lewis had three of his eight blocked shots during that span, with each rejection leading to a Maryland basket.
Georgia Tech began its comeback effort, but Maryland found the wherewithal to repel the threat.
"The last time we played them had a lot to do with how we did tonight," said Burns. "We were embarrassed at how we played there. It just wasn't up to our level. Tonight the idea was to play 40 minutes with intensity and I think we did that."