Terps close an emotional day with an 85-80 loss to No. 14 Illinois

Terps close an emotional day with an 85-80 loss to No. 14 Illinois

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

The Maryland men’s basketball team opened Saturday’s game against No. 14 Illinois with energy and exuberance that had been sorely lacking recently. Part of the reason for the renewed vigor: The opponent provided one of two remaining Quadrant 1 victory opportunities for the Terrapins’ fizzling NCAA tournament aspirations.

The death of beloved former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell at 92 on Saturday morning provided plenty of inspiration as well, but the Terps could not honor the Basketball Hall of Famer with a win. Instead, Maryland failed to get critical stops down the stretch during its 85-80 loss at Xfinity Center.

Jahmir Young led the Terps with a game-high 28 points but made just 8 of 23 field goal attempts, missing several shots deep in the painted area during the closing minutes of Maryland’s fourth loss in five games. Julian Reese added 18 points and 11 rebounds, but the Terps made just 4 of 18 three-pointers and shot 41.3 percent overall.

The Fighting Illini got 27 points from Terrence Shannon Jr. to avenge a 76-67 loss last month in Champaign and end a three-game slide in the series. This time, Maryland tied the score at 68 with 5:39 to play before the Illini went on a decisive 11-5 burst to close a day devoted to recognizing Driesell’s vast contributions to the Terps’ program.

Fans rose from their seats shortly before tip-off for a moment of silence for the coach responsible for moving Maryland onto the national landscape, declaring the school would become the “UCLA of the East.” The Terps never reached that level, but Driesell’s teams captured local loyalties thanks to indelible performances such as winning the 1984 ACC tournament.

Members from that team who played for Driesell were recognized during a 40th-anniversary halftime ceremony, as was the 2004 team that won the ACC tournament championship under Gary Williams, who played at Maryland during lean times before Driesell arrived in College Park and came back to direct the Terps to the national championship in 2002.

Driesell coached at Maryland from 1969 to 1986. He went 348-159 while packing the stands at Cole Field House.

“Having played here in the mid- to late ’60s and seeing how the basketball program was then compared to when Lefty came in, what he did with Cole Field House and then becoming a factor in the ACC, which we really weren’t when I was here, and then on the national level, beating UCLA, not being afraid to put Maryland’s basketball program out there,” said Williams, the only coach with more wins at Maryland than Driesell, “that takes some guts to do that.”

Other notable achievements under Driesell included six appearances in the ACC title game, eight NCAA tournament berths and winning the 1972 NIT championship. Maryland was ranked as high as second in the Associated Press poll for four consecutive seasons from 1972 to 1976 and attracted some of the top high school talent in the country.

He coached one of the most iconic players in school history, Len Bias, who was the No. 2 pick by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA draft. The Prince George’s County legend never played in the NBA, dying two days after the draft of a cocaine overdose. One day after a tragedy that still resonates in College Park, Driesell delivered an emotional tribute to Bias to an overflow crowd in the lobby at Cole Field House, calling him “the greatest basketball player that ever played in the Atlantic Coast Conference.”

“There’s so many stories,” said Keith Gatlin, a standout freshman on the 1984 team. “The one for me was just how personable Coach was, how he was so loving. The best times I had with him were actually at his house. On Saturdays, we’d play one-on-one, go to church with his family on Sundays — those are things I don’t think Coach got a lot of credit for. He was way before his time.”

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