- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

Fans uncharacteristically placid throughout most of a tight basketball game erupted off their bar stools at Santa Fe Cafe in College Park and gave each other high-fives when the University of Maryland sealed its victory yesterday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"We've gone full circle. We're going to meet Lefty in the next round," said Maryland alum Rajeev Kurichh, 38, sounding philosophical after the clock ran out on George Mason University.
His friend and fellow alum Dimitri Mantzouranis, 38, screamed to the crowd: "We're playing Lefty everybody."
After defeating GMU 83-80 yesterday in Boise, Idaho, the Terrapins tomorrow play Georgia State, an upstart team coached by former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell. Driesell coached the Terrapins from 1969 to 1986, when he was fired in the wake of Len Bias' death.
After the loss, George Mason fans at Fat Tuesday's Raw Bar across from the campus in Fairfax, Va., were more circumspect.
"It was worth it. It was a great game," said "Big John" Troy, 35, a GMU alum. "They were fighting the whole way."
"Big John" had been standing on a chair rooting GMU on. When the Patriots lost the ball on an errant pass out of bounds with five seconds left and trailing by two, he and the crowd at Fat Tuesday's seemed to know the game was over.
They gave their team a round of applause before scrambling for their checks.
The UMd. crowd at the Santa Fe Cafe on Knox Road somewhat sparse at the 3 p.m. start of the game appeared cocky as the game began, many not caring who their team met in the first round. Several fans couldn't name any George Mason players, or even the team's conference.
"Some people just don't have March Madness spirit," said student Cory Kaufman, 21.
The first loud cheers rang out just before halftime when guard Juan Dixon, Maryland's leading scorer, hit a three-pointer to bring his team within three points of GMU.
Robin Miller, 21, and Remi Dosunmu, 20, came to Santa Fe with members of their protozoology class following a midterm exam. Their professor told his students he would be grading the tests at the bar, and they were welcome to join him.
"It's going to ruin spring break" if Maryland loses, Miss Miller said.
Steve Morina, 29, an alum and third-grade teacher at Paint Branch Elementary School in College Park, watched the game in class with his students before coming to the bar.
"Being a teacher, they do what you want," he said when asked if the children really wanted to watch basketball. "If you want to watch the game, they want to watch the game."
Meanwhile, the crowd at Fat Tuesday's had to be coaxed into raucousness. A 30,000-to-1 long shot to win the tournament, their Patriots were 17-point underdogs to a Maryland team ranked in the Top 25 all season. But all that was forgotten when GMU jumped out to an early eight-point lead.
During halftime, Kay Liebermann, 80, a student and volunteer at GMU, took a break from the cheering.
"This is the greatest," she said. "I get too excited too tired."
Mrs. Liebermann's son played basketball for GMU in the late '60s, and a copy of her tournament bracket revealed she had picked GMU to win it all.
But for Virginians and Marylanders, accustomed to quibbling, the regional matchup on a national stage took on extra meaning.
GMU freshman McNair Ozmer described the local angle as "pretty cool."
"It's like a neighborhood rivalry," she said.
"Virginia pride is definitely on the line," added GMU junior Quentin Roggenkamp.
"I think from our standpoint it is nice to be facing Maryland because Mason never gets any coverage," said Tom Ward, 43, an employee at GMU's purchasing office.
But as the clock wound down on the tight game, Liv Taylor found herself in a dilemma she had hoped she would not have to face.
"I go to Maryland, but I work at Mason," she said. "What am I supposed to do?"


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