The Maryland men’s basketball team has enjoyed a lot of big wins in their 100 seasons on the hardwood, but perhaps none bigger than their 67-66 victory over Notre Dame on January 27, 1979, in front of a sell-out crowd in Cole. The Fighting Irish came to campus ranked No. 1 in the country and riding a seven-game winning streak, while Maryland was unranked and looking for an upset.
The Terps led by as many as 12 during the game, but fell apart in the last 7.5 minutes of the contest, needing some late heroics from stars Larry Gibson and Buck Williams to complement Ernie Graham’s game-high 28 points and eke out the victory. Gibson pulled the Terps to within two, 66-64, sinking two free throws at the 1:26 minute mark. The Irish then passed the ball around until 15 seconds remained (in the days before the institution of the shot clock), and Reggie Jackson fouled Notre Dame’s Stan Wilcox. Wilcox missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Maryland’s Buck Williams grabbed the rebound, one of his 15 on the day. The Terps called time-out with 11 seconds left, then again with 5 seconds remaining to set up the final play.
Coach Lefty Driesell called for the same set-up that had nearly beaten the No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels only a week earlier. Jackson passed the ball to guard Greg Manning who gave up an open shot to drive to the hoop. Just as he was about to go out of bounds, he flipped the ball back to Larry Gibson who sank a layup and was fouled by the Irish’s Bruce Flowers, who later seemed unconvinced that he had indeed committed the infraction. “If the referee [said] I did, then I guess I did,” he told the Washington Post after game.
Notre Dame called two time-outs in an attempt to ice Gibson, whose free throw hit nothing but net with one second left on the clock.
The Irish called another time-out to set up a last-gasp, half-court shot that fell short, and the celebration was on! Terrapin fans, many of them waving Maryland flags, mobbed the court, and Driesell was mobbed by a huge crowd on the floor of Cole while being interviewed on national television.
After the game, Gibson told The Diamondback, “That was definitely one of the biggest shots of my life…I was just trying to concentrate on the rim. But I was thinking about beating the No. 1 team in the country.”
You can re-live this No. 1 upset by watching the four reels of footage from the game in the UMD Archives’ collections, which have been digitized as part of our campaign to Help Preserve Maryland Basketball History:
- from tip-off to about 8 minutes left in the first half
- from 8:16 remaining in the first half to halftime
- from halftime to about 8 minutes left in the second half
- from 8:28 remaining in the second half to just short of the final shot
If you enjoyed viewing this landmark Terps’ victory, please visit go.umd.edu/preservembb and make a gift to support our on-going work to digitize additional footage from 1953 to 2014.
This is the fifth in a series of blog posts the University Archives will be featuring as part of the celebration of the 100th season of Maryland men’s basketball, 2018-2019, with our colleagues in Intercollegiate Athletics. Visit the #Terps100 website for more information about and to participate in the celebration.
Follow Terrapin Tales throughout the season for additional features on landmark days in Maryland men’s basketball history. Next in line is March 8, the 60th anniversary of the Terps’ first-ever ACC Tournament championship.