COLLEGE PARK -- The return of college basketball called out to Maryland's most avid fans like a siren early this morning.
Or was that Dick Vitale?
Seven months after the Terrapins were eliminated by Connecticut from the NCAA tournament, they reacquainted themselves with 12,000 basketball zealots at Cole Field House for Midnight Madness.
It was a fitting touch for the Terps to launch the 1995-96 season with Vitale, ESPN's ebullient voice of the college game, who was on hand for the season-opening festivities.
After the women's team was introduced and men's coach Gary Williams addressed the crowd, the celebration began. It started with an oversized basketball dropping from the rafters through a huge hoop as a courtside clock signaled midnight.
That was followed by a brief but dazzling fireworks display as players ran onto the court.
Then, one by one, starting with freshman LaRon Profit, the players were introduced. In his first official Cole appearance and perhaps with an idea of what's to come, Profit made a monster dunk.
Dunks were the order of the night. There was a five-minute slam-dunk exhibition and then a 15-minute scrimmage. Keith Booth made a one-hand dunk off an alley-oop pass from Sarunas Jasikevicius, and hit a three-point jumper to highlight a 41-32 win for the Red team.
The White team, led by Exree Hipp and Duane Simpkins, got even with a 37-34 win in a three-point shootout.
Midnight Madness at Cole goes back to October 1972 and what generally is regarded as the first official midnight practice. That's when then-Maryland coach Lefty Driesell was so moved to get a jump on the opposition that he scheduled a midnight scrimmage for the Terps.
Midnight Madness has made numerous appearances at Cole since then, although not continuously. Under Williams, the Terps have held the midnight celebration three of the past four years. The one exception was the 1993-94 season, which started with a 6 a.m. Saturday workout.
"I'm looking forward to getting through Midnight Madness," Williams said, "because that's when we can get serious and really see what we're about."