ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech wobbled into last night's Atlantic Coast Conference opener with four straight losses, a dysfunctional team that had lost its direction.
Even its coach, Bobby Cremins, conceded, "We have fallen apart."
That the Yellow Jackets resuscitated themselves with a 98-84 victory over Maryland before 11,087 at the Omni should not come as a shock.
This, after all, is the ACC city where the Terps are accustomed to going down in flames.
Counting last night, Maryland has lost 14 of its past 15 games against Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The lone road victory in that drought came two years ago in a 91-88 nail-biter.
Although all preceding games in the series came at Alexander Memorial Coliseum -- which is undergoing a $13 million renovation -- the Omni held the same kind of haunting vision for the Terps.
This time the vision became a long-range shooting duel, and the Terps fell under a blaze of three-pointers. In a game that careened out of control for Maryland in the second half, the Terps took 27 long-range shots -- making 11 -- and Tech hit nine of 15 three-pointers.
Oddly, the three-point shot does not especially suit either team.
"We're not a three-point-shooting team as the main thrust of our offense," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We wanted to go inside and we didn't.
"We have seniors and we expect to be able to run some things. I told the players after the game, 'I'll take responsibility for this.' "
Said Cremins: "We're not a really great three-point shooting team."
The Yellow Jackets (7-7) were great from any range. They hit 31 of 62 shots from the field, and 27 of 28 free throws. Stephon Marbury, their freshman point guard, and Drew Barry, their senior shooting guard, combined to hit six of eight three-point shots.
Marbury's 23 points tied Matt Harpring for team high. Barry finished with 21.
"Well, we live for another day," Cremins said.
"We really played well. Before this, we did not look like a team."
Suddenly, Maryland (6-4) is the team on the skids. The Terps saw a three-game winning streak squashed when they gave up 56 second-half points. But Williams said he felt the game getting away in the first half when Maryland's pressing defense couldn't cash in.
"We played OK early," he said. "We were kind of hanging around. Tonight our defense wasn't good enough. I'm not talking about the second half. We broke down early, gave up too many easy baskets.
"I'm disappointed but not discouraged. It's one of 16 conference games. We can play a lot better than that."
Starting Saturday, when North Carolina visits Cole Field House, the Terps will have to.
They got 21 points and 10 rebounds from Mario Lucas off the bench, 15 points and another school record from Johnny Rhodes, and 13 points and 10 rebounds from Keith Booth.
Sarunas Jasikevicius contributed 11 points, hitting three of five from the arc.
Rhodes hit two three-point shots in the first half to break Walt Williams' school record of 154 three-pointers. He also picked up two steals to pass Muggsy Bogues, of Baltimore and Wake Forest, for second place on the ACC's career steals list.
But Maryland's shortcomings again focused on shooting. Booth helped make up for 3-for-14 shooting with his persistence, which included three blocked shots in the first half.
But the Terps got little scoring from Exree Hipp (2-for-10 shooting, six points) and point guard Duane Simpkins (seven points, eight assists, only six shots).
"Duane got out of sync," Williams said. "I don't know if he was worried about Marbury. But you can't focus on one guy. In this league, there are a lot of great players."
There were six lead changes in the first half, when Maryland led by as much as six. But Tech scored the last five points of the half to forge a 42-42 tie, then the first four points of the second half. Up 46-42, the Jackets were never headed.
They used a 17-10 run to open a 59-52 lead. But with five minutes left in the game, Maryland was down by just 70-66 after Rodney Elliott hit a three-pointer.
Then it collapsed for the Terps.
Georgia Tech went on a 13-2 run that started with a three-pointer by Barry to go up 83-68 and Maryland couldn't recover, even with its three-point binge.
Tech led by as much as 18 -- with 1:20 to go.
"This is adversity for us," Williams said. "It's a tough time. We didn't expect this tonight."
) 3 Even if it was Atlanta.
Next for Terps
Opponent: No. 16 North Carolina
Site: Cole Field House, College Park
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.