GREENSBORO, N.C. — The best-laid plans of mice, men and especially Lefty Driesell oft go astray. The most recent wandered away Saturday when his guard, Keith Gatlin, fired a Maryland inbounds pass into the hands of the other team's forward, Duane Ferrell of Georgia Tech.
There were five seconds left, and Ferrell was at midcourt, with nothing between him and the basket. With one second left, he threw down a two-handed slam, and sixth-ranked Georgia Tech defeated unranked Maryland, 64-62, to reach today's final of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament against top-rated Duke.
"Maybe we got to get a better way to get the ball in," said Driesell, among many other things.
Duke had its own problems, rallying from a 54-47 deficit with 11:26 left to beat Virginia, 75-70. This was after the opening-round upsets--the Terps knocking off fourth-ranked North Carolina, the Cavaliers eliminating 20th-ranked North Carolina State.
Nevertheless, the ACC's four ranked teams are considered shoo-ins for NCAA tournament invitations. Virginia, 19-10, and Maryland, 18-13, are thought to be safe bets.
Aren't they Lefty?
"Naw, I doubt if we'll get one now," Driesell said. "Who asked that question? That's the silliest question I ever heard."
Georgia Tech trailed, 34-31, at the half and 45-37 with 15:37 left. After that, Maryland went 11:48 with one field goal, which has a tendency to undermine's one upset attempts. Georgia Tech Coach Bobby Cremins had his 7-foot center, John Salley, guarding Maryland's top scoring threat, Len Bias.
Georgia Tech recaptured the lead on Ferrell's free throws with 6:41 left. The Yellowjackets went into the closing seconds up 62-60. Then Bias drove into the lane, spun back to his left, jumped inside Salley and bounced a 12-footer off the rim and in, tying the game with :10 left.
Georgia Tech called time and in-bounded the ball to guard Mark Price, who made a pell-mell rush up the floor and lost the ball at midcourt. Maryland's Terry Long picked it up and called time with five seconds left.
"I told Price, 'If you get into the open field, go,' " Tech Coach Bobby Cremins said. "Maybe I shouldn't have told him that. You know how he is."
It was Maryland's turn to inbound the ball. Gatlin did and Maryland was history.
Ferrell: "In the huddle I was listening to Coach Clark (assistant Perry Clark). He told us they had a designed play they'd run earlier in the season. He said they'd probably have Bias coming off a screen at the top of the key.
"When the pick came, I got over it. When the ball came, it was a surprise to me. I didn't think he (Gatlin) would throw that pass. I thought he saw me coming."
Gatlin: "I never saw him until I threw the ball. He just jumped the pick. All I could do was run after him as fast as I could."
Cremins: "When we lost the ball. I figured it's Maryland's turn. All of a sudden, out of the blue . . . I was just hoping to get into overtime. That's the last thing I ever thought would happen. It's weird, strange."
Driesell: "They were the pre-season No. 1 pick in the country. We were picked fifth or sixth in the ACC. And we gave them all they wanted. We ain't going to lose any sleep over it."
Virginia shot 59% from the floor to dump North Carolina State Friday, and 55% in Saturday's first half, when it took a 38-33 lead over Duke.
Then, the Cavaliers turned a small sophomore reserve guard named John Johnson loose. Johnson is a waterbug-type but Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, a Bob Knight disciple, plays a pressuring man-to-man most of the time. The Blue Devils' Tommy Amaker had to stay up tight on Johnson, who kept squirting by him.
Johnson scored eight points in the first 8:34 of the half as the Cavaliers took a 54-47 lead. The bulkier Blue Devils rallied, recapturing the lead on a steal and dunk by 6-10, 220-pound Jay Bilas. They took it back for good, posting up 6-5 forward David Henderson, who hit a short jumper, was fouled and made the free throw with 3:32 left.
A moment later, Henderson got another three-point play posting up. Then he hit two free throws while Duke was playing keep-away, giving him eight points in three minutes 32 seconds.
"I think this game demonstrated why Duke is No. 1," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland. "I think we threw our best punch at them and they absorbed it. They're a great team. We're not there yet."