- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2001

Time has erased many of the memories, but the result has been permanently etched in local sports history: Georgetown 74, Maryland 68, in the first and heretofore only NCAA tournament game between the area's two basketball powers.

It was March 14, 1980, an East Region semifinal at Philadelphia's Spectrum, and many of the Hoyas and Terrapins who meet in tonight's West Region semifinal in Anaheim, Calif., hadn't been born. Georgetown coach Craig Esherick was a graduate assistant to John Thompson and less than two years out of school. Maryland's Gary Williams, now a grandfather, was the 35-year-old coach at American University in his second season. Jimmy Carter was in the twilight of his presidency, and Jack Pardee was entering his final year as coach of the Redskins.

But then, as now, the stakes were huge. Maryland, the No. 2 seed in the East, was coming off an 86-75 victory over Tennessee following a first-round bye. Third-seeded Georgetown also had a bye, then beat Iona 74-71. In a 48-team NCAA field, two more victories would earn a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis. The rivalry was an afterthought.

"It wasn't even a rivalry to me as a player," said former Maryland guard Greg Manning, now the athletic director at Georgia State, where one of his employees, basketball coach Lefty Driesell, was his coach at Maryland. "It was just another team."

Said former Georgetown forward Eric Smith, who now works as an electrician: "We didn't think of it as any rivalry. I guess the papers tried to start something between Lefty and Coach Thompson."

Dutch Morley, who was Maryland's sixth man, said, "That time of year, it's more about trying to advance and accomplish all the goals you set at the beginning of the year. It wasn't, 'Let's go out and beat Georgetown because they're 20 miles away.' Obviously the local rivalry added a little incentive, but once you're out there, you're trying to win an NCAA ballgame."

But then, as now, the hype was inescapable.

"The thing I remember most is the buildup before the game," said Esherick, who succeeded Thompson in 1999. "I don't remember much about the game other than Eric Smith did a great job on Albert King. Smitty did such a good job he forced them to go to other people on offense, and that's why we really won the game."

King, Maryland's 6-foot-7 All-American junior forward and ACC player of the year, scored with 18:05 left in the second half to give the Terps a 45-40 lead. It was his last basket of the game.

"I remember a lot of holding," said Smith, who referred to King as "a real slippery character."

Due largely to Smith, a 6-5 sophomore forward, King finished with only 15 points. Even Buck Williams, another all-time Maryland great (both he and King were drafted in the first round by the New Jersey Nets in 1981), couldn't keep the Hoyas from coming back. Williams, who was out with an injury when Georgetown beat Maryland during the regular season at D.C. Armory, had 18 points, 15 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.

"Buck was back," recalled Hoyas strength and conditioning coach Ed Spriggs, a reserve forward in 1980. "That was the story. Buck wasn't there when we beat them at the Armory. And when we were getting ready for the game in Philly, that was the buzz. Buck was back, and it was supposed to be a totally different story."

It almost was. After falling behind 22-12, Maryland stormed back. The Terps finally tied the game at 34-34 on a steal and basket by Morley and took a 39-38 lead at halftime.

"One thing I do remember is that we played pretty well for about 30 minutes," said Morley, now a superintendent with a public utilities contracting firm in Greenbelt. "We didn't finish down the stretch."

When Craig Shelton, the Hoyas' best big man, drew his fourth foul and had to leave early in the second half, things looked bleak for Georgetown. But, Smith said afterward, "We knew we could still play with them." Spriggs and Mike Hancock performed admirably in relief. Driesell later would say the Terps might have relaxed, and the Hoyas rallied behind guards John "Bay-Bay" Duren and Eric "Sleepy" Floyd.

Duren and Floyd had more than colorful nicknames going for them. They could shoot. Despite missing early, they kept firing, taking 32 of Georgetown's 60 shots. And they were hot when it counted the most, raining jumpers down on the Terps. There was no 3-point line back then, and the shots went for only a deuce, but they proved the difference on offense.

"I know Sleepy hit quite a few," said Morley, who had the unenviable task of trying to guard Floyd much of the game.

Floyd, a sophomore, led the Hoyas with 18 points. He also had six steals and seven turnovers.

"They just told me to get open and don't pass," said Floyd, who went on to play 13 years in the NBA and now does marketing for a venture capital firm in Sugarland, Texas. " 'Whenever you get it, shoot it.' "

The game was by no means artistic. Maryland turned the ball over 27 times, Georgetown 20.

"They were really good," said Manning, who made nine of 14 shots and led the Terps with 19 points. "It was up and down, and they kind of played the same way we played. Defensively, they got all over you. It was a typical John Thompson team. They were really good in the open floor, as were we. It was a great matchup."

Although the attendance was announced as 17,569, many fans left after Iowa beat Syracuse in the first semifinal game. But the Georgetown and Maryland fans who drove up I-95 created their own juiced-up atmosphere, and the intensity on the court was palpable.

"Maryland was at the level that Georgetown wanted to get to," Floyd said. "They had a great team. We were probably more pumped up to play them than they were to play us."

Afterward, Maryland's players were crushed, their hopes at redemption ruined.

"The biggest thing was the ACC championship game [which the Terps lost to Duke by one point]," Morley said. "That was my biggest memory of that year."

The Hoyas treated the victory matter-of-factly, with Floyd proclaiming that now that the battle of D.C. was settled, "We're not going to prove ourselves until we get to the national championship."

It wasn't to be. Two days later, Iowa beat Georgetown 81-80 to reach the Final Four. It would be four years until the Hoyas, led by Patrick Ewing, won it all. Floyd by then was in the NBA, a 1982 first-round draft pick by New Jersey, where he played with King and Williams.

Maryland, meanwhile, is still waiting for its first trip to the Final Four, much less an NCAA title, which brings us to tonight's game and what really matters.

"The biggest thing," Morley said, "is to advance."

• Staff writer Barker Davis contributed to this report.

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