COLLEGE PARK — — Not since Drew Nicholas beat UNC Wilmington in 2003 had a Maryland Terrapin hit a buzzer-beating shot of the sort that Cliff Tucker rained down on Georgia Tech on Saturday before a frenzied sellout crowd at Comcast Center.
Tucker's heroics might not have come in the NCAA tournament as Nicholas' did, but the junior guard's corner jumper carried its own set of circumstances that made it an instant classic.
Tucker's 3-pointer - the buzzer sounded while the shot was in the air - beat Georgia Tech, 76-74, to keep Maryland undefeated (6-0) at home in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
The shot was all the more remarkable because of what transpired before it.
The Terrapins (19-7, 9-3 ACC) led before Georgia Tech freshman Derrick Favors - who had 21 points and 18 rebounds - hit a follow shot to put the Yellow Jackets in front 74-73 with three seconds remaining. Georgia Tech, and Favors in particular, had hurt the Terps all day with second-chance baskets.
The Terps inbounded the ball, and senior guard Greivis Vasquez - who earlier became the sixth Terrapin to surpass 2,000 career points - launched a desperation heave after taking a step or two past midcourt. The shot banked in.
But Maryland assistant coach Keith Booth had called a timeout, several Terps players said later, so the shot did not count. "Coach [ Gary] Williams was real frustrated about that," Tucker said.
Since buzzer-beaters don't come along every day - much less twice in the same game - Maryland was in a precarious position as it retreated to the bench with 1.5 seconds left.
"Of course we were disappointed," said forward Dino Gregory (Mount St. Joseph). But not defeated.
Said Vasquez: "I was in the huddle, saying, 'Don't panic, we're going to win this game.' "
Tucker, who had five points at that juncture, assumed the last play would be drawn up for Vasquez, Maryland's senior leader. "Eighty, 90 percent of the time, it's going to go to Greivis," Tucker said.
But Williams figured Vasquez would be double-teamed. In fact, Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said he had told guard D'Andre Bell: "Don't let him [Vasquez] touch the ball.' "
So Williams called the play for Tucker, who said later that he hadn't converted a game-winner since his Amateur Athletic Union days.
Tucker said Maryland originally wanted to try to lob a pass to him underneath the basket but figured it would be too long a heave for Eric Hayes, who was inbounding the ball at midcourt.
Tucker instead collected Hayes' pass behind the 3-point arc and fired in the game-winner from near the corner. His teammates chased Tucker and playfully mobbed him near Maryland's bench.
"It meant a lot to me that Coach [Williams] had the faith to draw the play for me," said Tucker, who grew frustrated at times last season that he wasn't playing more. "I dreamt about it a lot of times. Glad it came true today."
Vasquez said he didn't care a bit that his earlier shot had not counted. "The only difference is I would have been the hero," he said, smiling.
Vasquez shot only 5-for-16 but became the first ACC player to reach 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds.
Maryland won despite shooting 43.1 percent and surrendering 24 second-chance points to the bigger Yellow Jackets. The lead changed hands a dozen times.
The outcome caused more disappointment for Hewitt and Georgia Tech (18-9, 6-7). Three of the team's past five losses have been by two points.
"We probably played our best game of the season," Hewitt said.
Hewitt said he believed his team had finally run into some good fortune when Vasquez's heave was nullified.
"I was hoping that the shot that Greivis took was going to be our lucky break," the coach said.
But Hewitt couldn't have known that Tucker's shot was up next.
Said Gregory: "I've never been that nervous in my life."
Said Gary Williams: "You have empathy for Paul Hewitt in this case because they did everything right to win the game and they didn't." FGFTRebGa. TechM-AM-AO-TPtsFavors9-153-39-1821Lawal5-132-82-512Shumpert6-132-23-517Bell2-31-21-16Rice Jr2-90-03-85Udofia2-30-00-05MMiller1-22-31-14Oliver1-71-22-44Peacock0-30-00-20Totals28-6811-2021-4574Percentages:
FG .412, FT .550. 3-point goals:
7-15, .467 (Shumpert 3-4, Udofia 1-1, Bell 1-2, Rice Jr. 1-4, Oliver 1-4). Team rebounds:
1. Blocked shots:
7 (Lawal 3, Favors 2, Oliver, Peacock). Turnovers:
13 (Bell 5, Lawal 3, Oliver 2, M.Miller, Favors, Peacock). Assists: 13
(M.Miller 3, Shumpert 3, Favors 2, Oliver 2, Bell, Peacock, Udofia). Steals:
4 (Bell 2, Rice Jr., M.Miller). Personal fouls:
14 (Bell 3, Rice Jr. 3, Oliver 2, Favors, Lawa, M.Miller, Peacock, Shumpert, Udofia.) Technical fouls:
A-17,950. Officials-Mike Eades, Roger Ayers, Raymond Styons. FGFTRebMarylandM-AM-AO-TPtsMilbrne2-111-23-75Williams4-51-44-129Hayes6-100-00-215Mosley3-80-04-66Vasquez5-167-71-518Bowie2-50-00-16Tucker2-42-20-08Gregory4-61-20-29Padgett0-00-00-00Totals28-6512-1714-3876Percentages:
FG .431, FT .706. 3-point goals:
8-22, .364 (Hayes 3-6, Tucker 2-3, Bowie 2-3, Vasquez 1-7, Mosley 0-1, Milbourne 0-2). Team rebounds:
3. Blocked shots:
2 (Milbourne 2). Turnovers:
9 (Mosley 3, Vasquez 2, Hayes 2, Williams, Gregory). Assists:
16 (Vasquez 8, Hayes 5, Milbourne 2, Mosley). Steals:
5 (Williams 2, Vasquez, Hayes, Milbourne). Personal fouls:
16 (Gregory 4, Milbourne 3, Williams 3, Hayes 2, Mosley 2, Vasquez 2). Technical fouls:
None. Georgia Tech 3242-74 Maryland 3442-76