ATLANTA -- The M&M Kids messed up Georgia Tech, and then senior guard Sarunas Jasikevicius made the clutch play that rescued a road win in the Atlantic Coast Conference for Maryland.
The Terps never trailed after the first minute, thanks to more heroics off the bench by freshmen Mike Mardesich and Terence Morris, but last night's 70-67 win over the Yellow Jackets at Alexander Memorial Coliseum wasn't secured until Jasikevicius drained three free throws with 1.1 seconds left.
It was another hairy ending for Maryland. The Terps led by 16 points after 10 minutes and by nine with less than seven to go, but they appeared headed to their fourth overtime game when senior forward Matt Harpring drove in from the left side to tie it with 5.4 seconds left.
Rodney Elliott in-bounded to Jasikevicius, who dribbled to the left of the key and got Harpring off his feet 25 feet from the basket. Jasikevicius went up for a three, drew the foul, and calmly made all three of his free throws.
"That's my move," joked Jasikevicius, who had the ball but got nothing at the end of regulation in last week's upset win over No. 1 North Carolina. "I got him [Harpring] in the air, and he definitely fouled me."
Harpring said, "It was a good play on his [Jasikevicius'] part," but did the Terps really expect to get that call, on the road and against one of the most respected players in the ACC?
"Yeah, because it was a foul," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Just like the palm they called before that was a good call."
It was another struggle down the stretch for the Terps' half-court offense. They blew a 67-62 lead in the last three minutes with five straight fruitless possessions, the last being a palm call on junior point guard Terrell Stokes with 20.6 seconds left.
Harpring turned that into a tie, but Jasikevicius came back, and Maryland (11-6, 4-3) took sole possession of third place in the ACC thanks to the defensive work it did on the senior forward through the first 39 minutes.
The Terps completed their only two-game road swing in the ACC, and they return to Cole Field House on Saturday (4 p.m.) to face No. 25 Clemson. Georgia Tech (12-6, 2-4) lost two in a row for the first time this season.
Harpring, who is bidding to become only the eighth player in the ACC to lead the league in both scoring and rebounding, was cut over his right eye late in the first half and was limited to 14 points, his lowest point total since last February.
Maryland's veterans also had trouble finding their games, but Mardesich and Morris delivered again, just as they did against North Carolina.
After 11 minutes, both center Obinna Ekezie and Elliott had three fouls, but Mardesich had 10 points in a 28-minute stint, and Morris had an ACC-high 13 in only 16 minutes. They were a combined 10 of 20 from the field, while the rest of the Terps were 18 of 52 (34.6 percent).
"They had to come through," Williams said. "Those two kids play their best when the pressure is on."
Ekezie, who did not score in the first half, made an appearance after intermission and crammed eight of his 10 points into a three-minute span. His three-point play boosted the Terps to a 49-40 lead with 12: 39 left, and the spread was still that large when Elliott's jumper made it 60-51 with 7: 04 left.
Georgia Tech, the second-worst three-point team in the ACC, made only one of nine in the first half, but the Yellow Jackets hit eight from beyond the arc in the second, when the Terps' 3-2 zone limited Harpring's touches but was too soft on the perimeter.
"Playing the zone, we knew Georgia Tech would get a couple of threes," Williams said. "We found Harpring pretty well in the second half. He is such a great player. He is like a bomb ready to go off."
Two baskets from long distance by senior forward Michael Maddox allowed Georgia Tech to cut into that nine-point deficit, and another by freshman Dion Glover, who had a game-high 21 points, got the Yellow Jackets within 65-62 with 3: 34 left.
Maryland made the most of its next chance, as Stokes drew the defense and fed Elliott for a wide-open 15-footer on the left baseline and a five-point lead with 2: 58 left, but the Terps didn't score another basket.
A free throw by Harpring and two by freshman center Alvin Jones got the Yellow Jackets within two. Maryland went to a man defense for the first time in the second half after the last of Stokes' five turnovers.
Harpring beat Profit off the dribble for the tie, but the finish was fine, wiping away the memory of a weak effort at Wake Forest on Saturday.
"No one was happy when we got here," Elliott said.
The senior from Dunbar had a team-high 16 points. Profit made only three of his 13 shots, but had eight assists, and Jasikevicius saved the best of his 13 for the end.
Then there were the M&M Kids, who showed that Georgia Tech, which started three freshmen, wasn't the only team on the court with some rookie power.
........... Conference Overall
............ W .. L ... W .. L
Duke ....... 6 .. 0 .. 17 .. 1
UNC ........ 5 .. 1 .. 19 .. 1
Maryland ... 4 .. 3 .. 11 .. 6
Clemson .... 3 .. 3 .. 12 .. 6
Ga. Tech ... 2 .. 4 .. 12 .. 6
Fla. St. ... 2 .. 4 .. 13 .. 5
W. Forest .. 2 .. 3 ... 9 .. 6
Virginia ... 2 .. 4 .. 10 .. 9
N.C. State.. 1 .. 5 .. 10 .. 7
Maryland 70, Ga. Tech 67
N.C. 74, N.C. State 60
W. Forest at. Fla. State, 7
Duke at Virginia, noon
Clemson at Maryland, 4
Fla. State at N. Carolina, 8
Pub Date: 1/22/98