Matchup sum­mons clas­sic mem­o­ries

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Don Markus

More than three decades later, Der­rick Lewis ad­mits that he and his Mary­land team­mates took their op­po­nent in the sec­ond round of the 1985 NCAA tour­na­ment a lit­tle too lightly.

Even though the Naval Acad­emy was lo­cated 30 miles from Col­lege Park, Lewis didn’t think the Terps had much of an ob­sta­cle to the Sweet 16 af­ter sur­viv­ing an­other rel­a­tive un­known, Mi­ami of Ohio, 69-68, in over­time in the first round.

“I don’t re­mem­ber us wor­ry­ing too much about that team [Navy] giv­ing us prob­lems,” Lewis said this week ahead of the schools’ first meet­ing since then, in An­napo­lis tonight. “They were t he Naval Acad­emy and we were an ACC team. They didn’t have any su­per­stars that we knew of.”

Lewis, a fresh­man at the time who played cen­ter for the Terps at 6-foot-7 and a scrawny 195 pounds, had heard very lit­tle Vet­er­ans Clas­sic Tonight, 8:30 TV: CBS Sports Net­work Ra­dio: 105.7 FM

about Navy’s 6-11 sopho­more cen­ter, a still-grow­ing David Robin­son.

“The only thing I knew about him was that he was a shot-blocker,” said Lewis, who was start­ing to get the same rep­u­ta­tion at Mary­land and re­mains the school’s all-time shot blocker.

Per­haps be­cause he was a se­nior, and looked at the game and the op­po­nent as a fu­ture coach him­self, Chuck Driesell said he had a dif­fer­ent view­point than Lewis about the Mid­ship­men and their bur­geon­ing star.

“We knew they were go­ing to be good and we knew David was good,” Driesell said Wed­nes­day.

Robin­son had only started to emerge on the na­tional stage, hav­ing been among the NCAA’s top play­ers that sea­son with 23.6 points, 11.6 re­bounds and 4 blocks a game. The pre­vi­ous game, a 78-55 win over LSU, Robin­son had 18 points and 18 re­bounds.

“At that point, we were kind of happy to be in the NCAA tour­na­ment,” Robin­son said Thurs­day. “Each round for us was just a new ad­ven­ture. I don’t know if we had much ex­pec­ta­tions and that made us have fun. LSU had no idea who we were. But Mary­land kind of knew.”

Doug Wo­j­cik, then a sopho­more and Navy’s start­ing point guard, said the easy vic­tory over the Tigers gave the Mid­ship­men con­fi­dence go­ing into the game against Mary­land.

“We had played so well against LSU that we thought, ‘Hey, any­thing’s pos­si­ble. ... Great op­por­tu­nity,’ ” Wo­j­cik said Tues­day. “We were ex­cited. We re­ally thought we could win the game.”

Navy nearly did. Helped by a fast start by Robin­son and lead­ing by as many as 11 points early in the sec­ond half, the Mid­ship­men were un­able to con­tain Mary­land ju­nior star Len Bias to­ward the end. Bias fin­ished with 20 points. Robin­son scored 22, but only two in the last 17 min­utes.

Af­ter the Terps erased their deficit, a dunk fol­low by Bias with a lit­tle over 4½ min­utes left gave the Terps the lead for good. Coach Lefty Driesell then went into a four-cor­ner stall for 3½ min­utes — the shot clock went in the next year — and Mary­land sur­vived, 64-59, be­fore los­ing to even­tual cham­pion Vil­lanova in the Sweet 16.

“Both teams played at such a high level and ul­ti­mately in that game, you had two [po­ten­tial] Hall of Famers in David Rob- Mary­land for­ward Len Bias cel­e­brates his team’s 64-59 NCAA tour­na­ment win in the sec­ond round over Navy in 1985. in­son and Lenny Bias,” said Wo­j­cik, now in his first sea­son as an as­sis­tant coach un­der an­other Hall of Famer, Michi­gan State’s Tom Izzo.

Said Robin­son: “It was a great game. That was all we wanted, to be com­pet­i­tive. We were try­ing to prove we were a pro­gram to be reck­oned with. It was harder at that point be­cause peo­ple didn’t know about you. You had to get out there and beat some teams in or­der to get into the NCAA tour­na­ment and get some re­spect.”

The meet­ing tonight be­tween Mary­land (1-0) and Navy (0-1) will be the fea­tured game in the Vet­er­ans Clas­sic at 8:30 p.m. Prov­i­dence and Wi­chita State will face off in the opener.

Wo­j­cik said that there was lit­tle in the way of hype for the 1985 matchup, given where the game was played.

“I think the thing about that is, there is no build-up un­til you both win,” Wo­j­cik said Tues­day. “You have two days for the game, but you’re in a ho­tel in Day­ton, Ohio, you’re not in Bal­ti­more or An­napo­lis.”

Part of Navy’s con­fi­dence go­ing into the Univer­sity of Day­ton Arena also came from Ver­non But­ler, a tough 6-foot-8 for­ward who had started his high school ca­reer at famed DeMatha Catholic be­fore fin­ish­ing at High Point High.

“David got all the pub, but Ver­non was our rock,” Wo­j­cik said.

Said Robin­son: “Ver­non could play with any for­ward in the coun­try.”

In But­ler’s se­nior year of high school, High Point split reg­u­lar sea­son games with Bias and North­west­ern High be­fore beat­ing Bias’ team in the state cham­pi­onship game at Cole Field House on a 35-footer at the buzzer by But­ler.

By the time they met again, Bias was well-known from his bat­tles with North Carolina’s Michael Jor­dan the pre­vi­ous year, when Bias led Mary­land to its only ACC tour­na­ment ti­tle un­der Lefty Driesell. He then be­came the ACC’s player of the year as a ju­nior.

Be­cause of the 36-hour prep in­volved be­tween the first round and sec­ond round, “We didn’t re­ally know a lot about the other teams go­ing in,” But­ler said. “I think we sur­prised our­selves that we were play­ing so well.”

But­ler said that Navy couldn’t sus­tain its suc­cess in the sec­ond half, when Mary­land made a key de­fen­sive ad­just­ment. Driesell came out of a 2-3 zone and put the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Bias on Robin­son.

“We even­tu­ally had to switch Lenny onto David be­cause I couldn’t do any­thing with him,” re­called Lewis, who got into early foul trou­ble. “Lenny was a lot more phys­i­cal with him and that kind of slowed him down a lit­tle bit.”

Robin­son said Driesell’s sec­ond-half ad­just­ments were the dif­fer­ence.

“Lefty re­spected us, he was much more aware of what we were ca­pa­ble of and he wanted to make us have to make plays,” Robin­son said. “When you get down to the stretch of the game, you have to play ev­ery sin­gle pos­ses­sion, clearly an ACC team is go­ing to be bet­ter than that. I don’t think we were ready for that type of game.”

That night, Navy coach Paul Evans said, “They wore us down. We played well for 30 min­utes and then ran out of steam.”

As things turned out, the game against Mary­land might have been the com­ing-out party for a player who would be­come the No. 1 pick in the 1987 NBA draft and one of the 50 great­est play­ers in NBA his­tory. A lot of that had to do with Bias.

“Those mo­ments are the kind of mo- ments you kind of live for,” Robin­son said. “Here’s a guy I knew was go­ing to play pro. At that point I didn’t even think I was go­ing to be a pro. … For me it was a mea­sur­ing stick. I didn’t just think it was go­ing to be me against him, but I took it per­sonal. It was a good gauge for me.”

It also served as a cat­a­lyst for one of the big­gest up­sets in NCAA tour­na­ment his­tory. In 1986, the No. 7 seed Mid­ship­men shocked No. 2 seed Syra­cuse on its home court at the Car­rier Dome in the sec­ond round be­hind 35 points and 11 re­bounds from Robin­son.

“In the Mary­land game, we were up at half and they made a run and we didn’t know how to counter that,” re­called But­ler. “The next year, we were a lit­tle more sea­soned, we had to been to The Dance be­fore and we knew what it would take. When we were up in the sec­ond half at Syra­cuse, we turned it on and ac­tu­ally in­creased the lead.”

The day af­ter the Mary­land-Navy game, both teams boarded the same US Air­ways flight back to Bal­ti­more. Wo­j­cik has a clear me­mory of walk­ing be­hind Lefty Driesell in the air­port in Day­ton.

“Lefty must have squat­ted dur­ing the game, his pants were split in the back,” Wo­j­cik re­called.

Said Chuck Driesell: “I can’t dis­tinctly re­mem­ber that hap­pen­ing, but I do re­mem­ber that hap­pen­ing sev­eral times.”

An in­ter­est­ing side­light to the Mary­landNavy game was the friend­ship that even­tu­ally forged when Chuck Driesell be­gan his own coach­ing ca­reer at the Naval Prep School in Newport, R.I., later that year.

“He’s join­ing our staff and he’s around An­napo­lis, ... and I still have two years to play,” re­called Wo­j­cik. “When I went on to Sur­face War­fare School be­fore I re­ported to my ship, I had to go to Newport and I lived with Chuck.”

Wo­j­cik called the younger Driesell, a for­mer Mary­land as­sis­tant, his “best friend in the coach­ing busi­ness.”

Chuck Driesell, now the coach at The Maret School in Wash­ing­ton, was hop­ing to get a ticket to tonight’s game. Robin­son will be in at­ten­dance.

Wo­j­cik will try to watch the game on tele­vi­sion, think­ing back to Day­ton in 1985.

“It’s un­be­liev­able that they haven’t played, be­ing so close to each other,” he said.

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