One down, three to go.
Maryland snapped its three-game winning streak with the Terrapins' most impressive performance in weeks. The 75-67 victory over NC State in the first round of the ACC Tournament keeps Maryland hopes for an NCAA Tournament berth alive for at least another day.
The Terrapins (19-13) advance to meet second-seeded and 5th-ranked Duke in the Friday ACC quarterfinal. Maryland dropped two games to the Blue Devils this season, but both were competitive and typical of Maryland's many tough losses against tough foes -- just the factor that has them on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble.
The seventh-seeded Terrapins came out on fire against the Wolfpack, running off to a 12-2 lead in the opening minutes, and leading by as many as 17 points in the first half. Coach Gary Williams shook up his lineup again, starting freshman forward Haukur Palsson for just the second time this season, alongside fellow freshman Terrell Stoglin, struggling senior guard Adrian Bowie and stalwarts Jordan Williams and Dino Gregory up front.
Williams turned in his 25th double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
But in a microcosm of the season, the Terrapins couldn't apply the knockout punch and the Pack hung around with a chance until late. The Terrapins got the pace to their liking but committed 15 turnovers. Their defense returned to mid-season form, though, holding the Pack to just 34 percent shooting, including just 2-of-17 bricksmanship from 3-point range.
The victory was vital for the Terrapins, who stumbled down the stretch with those three straight losses and suffered defeats in five of the last seven games. Maryland's NCAA Tournament bubble seemed popped short of a run to the ACC Tournament title but events around the country may open a door for the Terrapins.
That is, if they can beat Duke, and finally post a signature victory against a top-rated opponent. Then they still may need more but it all begins with a huge match-up with the Blue Devils Friday in Greensboro, N.C., a match-up that historically brings out the best in Maryland.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Palsson gave the Terps a lift offensively, scoring five of their first eight points but his 6-6 presence defensively impacted State sharpshooter Scott Wood's effectiveness. Woods drilled five 3-pointers when the two teams met earlier this year but he was just 1-of-7 from the floor (0-6 from 3-point) this time around.
Slumping junior Sean Mosley came off the bench to help guard the perimeter, and he chipped in seven points and five rebounds. He blocked a 3-pointer by Wood with 1:10 left that could have cut Maryland's lead to four points.
The Terps will need every man on deck again Friday against Duke, which will force tempo and try to wear Maryland down.
--The 19th victory of the season for Maryland meant that the Terrapins have now had at least that many wins in 15 consecutive seasons. They last failed to reach that plateau in 1995-96 with a 17-13 mark for a team that ironically reached the NCAA Tournament.
--The Terrapins advanced in the ACC Tournament for just the third time in their last seven tournament visits since they won the 2004 title. No team has won four straight games to claim the crown since the ACC expanded in 2005.
--Freshman G Terrell Stoglin had nine points for the second straight game, and added three assists and just three turnovers in 28 minutes. Prior to the last two games, Stoglin had scored 20-or-more points in four of the previous five games. He did speed the tempo against State, helping keep Maryland in control all night.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We played one of the toughest schedules in the country regardless. We've been in every game. We have one of the best coaches in the country, hands down, who (has) won the tournament. We have one of the best players in the country, hands down. I think Terrell (Stoglin) is one of the top freshmen. So we've got the players to do it. -- Freshman guard Pe'Shon Howard, on the Terrapins' chances of winning the ACC tournament.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Duke, ACC tournament quarterfinal, March 11
KEY MATCHUPS: Maryland dropped two competitive games to Duke in the regular season. To avoid a three-beat, they'll need to hike up their on-ball pressure and not give point guard Nolan Smith room to operate. He can knife through the defense but prefers to hoist jumpshots. If he gets rolling, it could snowball in a hurry for the Terps, who'll have their hands full containing Duke's secondary options.
FUTURES MARKET: Junior center Berend Weijs, the 6-foot-10 Dutchman, gave the Terps a lift off the bench that helped in the rally against Virginia. The rail-thin Weijs hit his only shot -- a jump hook -- and blocked a shot. Freshman Mychal Parker, who has played the least of Maryland's healthy scholarship players this year, has surged lately in practice, too, and he saw 10 minutes against the Cavs.
--Sophomore Jordan Williams had a team-high 17 points against Virginia, but his six rebounds were an 11-game low for the big center. With 359 boards this season through March 6, he should pass Joe Smith's 362 in the next game for the third-best rebounding season in Maryland history. Len Elmore's 412 boards in 1973-74 top the chart.
--Senior F Dino Gregory had 15 points in his final home game. Gregory, who averaged just 2.8 points in his career prior to this season, had scored in double figures in six of his last eight games through March 6, and he was tied for fourth on the team with a 9.0 ppg scoring average.
--Senior G Adrian Bowie had a steal against Virginia, the seventh straight game he had at least one theft. His 124 career steals through March 6 were 17th all-time in Maryland history.