COLLEGE PARK -- They aren't as raucous as Duke's Cameron Crazies, nor are they as genteel as Dean's bunch at North Carolina, and Lord knows, the Maryland crowd has been maligned for selective passiveness.
But this year, when the Maryland Terrapins have needed it most, their home crowd at Cole Field House has risen to the occasion and made its presence felt.
Take last night's 96-93 thriller over Georgia Tech for example. The Terps had plenty of opportunities and excuses to let the Yellow Jackets slip out with a win, but a rowdy gathering of 14,500 refused to let their team give it away.
"They had a great deal to do with that," said sophomore forward Evers Burns, who fuels the crowd's fire by flailing his arms for noise. "They're like our sixth man out there."
The third sellout throng of the season made its presence felt in a tangible way, rattling Georgia Tech reserve guard Brian Domalik into missing two free throws that would have tied the game at 95 with 11 seconds left.
In fairness, Domalik, who was subbing for injured center Matt Geiger, who was fouled going up for a shot by Burns, had seen no previous action in the second half and was shooting cold off the bench.
"Thankfully, he missed the first one and you hold your breath and hope that it goes OK," said Maryland coach Gary Williams.
"I just didn't step up to the plate and hit the shots," said Domalik.
But he was certainly thrown off by a crowd that has rallied behind its beleaguered team all season and certainly was in demand last night.
"We had great support today," said center Cedric Lewis, who had eight blocked shots to run his team-record total this season to 126.
"When Duke is at home, they get great fan support and we're getting that, too."
"The crowd likes our team," said Williams. "The people have seen that we've worked hard and they've stayed with us."
The Terps (13-10, 3-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) had to work very hard last night to pull out a win over a Yellow Jackets club (13-9, 5-6) that trounced Maryland 12 days before, 80-65, holding the Terps to 20 percent shooting in the first half.
No one worked as hard as senior guard Matt Roe, who fought off effects of the flu and questions about NCAA violations at his previous school, Syracuse, to score a career-high 33 points.
Roe sank 11 of 21 shots, including four from three-point range, and all seven free throws and played his best overall game of the season, a vast improvement from his 6-for-25 performance in Atlanta.
"I've been in two tough situations, both at my old school and here," said Roe, who would not comment on reports that the NCAA is investigating recruiting violations at Syracuse.
"I had to put all that stuff out of my mind and just play. This is the most important thing to me right now."
That he could do so didn't surprise his coach. "Matt's tough. That's the big thing about him," said Williams. "He's both mentally and physically tough. He just focused in on the game down there and tried to get over that. That's what he was able to do."
Maryland, which placed a season-high six players in double figures, used the same defensive strategy on guard Kenny Anderson as it had in Atlanta, when he scored just 19 points.
Anderson had 30 last night, but Vince Broadnax, who was in foul trouble most of the night, and Kevin McLinton, who eventually fouled out, did an effective job of limiting the situations in which Anderson took control of the game.
"It was a quiet 30," said Broadnax, who hit two clutch shots and a free throw in the last 2:15. "We knew he'd get his points, but the main goal was not to let him dominate."
"There's no key to stopping Kenny Anderson," said McLinton. "All you have to do is keep him from taking over the game."
In fact, Broadnax bodied up on Anderson, as the 6-2 sophomore, who almost certainly will pass up his last two collegiate seasons to go to the NBA next year, attempted a three-pointer that would have tied the game with three seconds left.
The shot was an air ball and Maryland dribbled out the clock to close out a most improbable win.
"He is an incredible ballplayer," Williams said of Anderson. "But the defense that we put on him made him take an off-balance shot.
"Vince has been incredible all year. Vince has made the big plays all year and tonight was no exception."