Sometimes basketball can be a very simple game—the team that makes the most shots wins. NC State made them today from both the foul line and behind the three-point arc. The Wolfpack won with sizzling outside shooting, converting 10 of 19 three-pointers. They also cashed in on their free throw attempts, making 23 of 25 from the line.
Unlike their sensational start against Wake Forest Thursday night, the Terps (11-7, 2-5) staggered out of the gate today, trailing 9-0 following two threes and three free throws by State's Marcus Melvin. The Pack (12-4, 5-2) extended their lead to 13-2 by the first media timeout only 4:04 into the game.
The balance of the first half was an uphill struggle for Maryland, but they were able to fight their way back to even at halftime. A 9-4 Terrapin spurt brought them within 23-15, and they closed the half on a 10-4 run. Jamar Smith began asserting himself on the interior for Maryland, scoring three hoops and dishing off for two assists in those bursts.
State's Julius Hodge single-handedly held the Terps at bay, scoring 12 straight and 16 of his team's 18 points in the later stages of the first half.
Chris McCray's seven points led the Terps' scoring in the half which saw they shoot 50%, although they were 0-7 from three-point range.
The Pack quickly jumped out to a 43-38 lead in the second half. Maryland then scored six straight points on a Nik Caner-Medley three-pointer and free throw and a short jumper by Smith and took their first lead of the game, 44-43, with 14:19 to play.
The game briefly see-sawed, but Hodge's third straight hoop gave NC State a 49-48 lead with 11:09 left that they would never relinquish. Three straight three-pointers within 1:55 by the Wolfpack, two by Engin Atsur and one by Scooter Sherrill highlighted a decisive 15-5 run that gave State a 62-49 lead.
Williams called a time out with 6:46 to try and regroup his team, and they responded with an 8-2 burst that cut the lead to 67-63. Again, Maryland's success was keyed by their ability to penetrate the Wolfpack zone defense and get the ball inside to Jamar Smith, who either scored or created opportunities for his teammates.
The smallest player on the court, State's Atsur, made the biggest shot of the game. With the shot clock approaching zero, Atsur drained yet another three and ended the Terps' final threat. His hoop gave the Wolfpack a 70-63 lead with 2:43 remaining, and took the life out of a raucous crowd. State, the best foul shooting team in the ACC closed the game out at the line.
Afterwards, a frustrated Coach Williams was somewhat philosophical about this game and what lies ahead for his team. He spoke about the Terps' effort today, "We were too passive out there at times and they made us pay. We have to put the ball in the basket when we have our shots. Maybe we can't make NC State shots, but we need to make our shots."
Regarding NC State, Williams said, "They're a tough team to play from behind against because of their patience."
Williams also looked at where his team stood at this point in the season and making their 11 th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, "We're still trying to become a consistent basketball team for 40 minutes. If that happens, we can do it. It hasn't happened yet."
"It's on me to do a better job teaching," Williams added. "My job is to make them a good team. We're not there yet. The battle continues. I'm looking forward to the challenge of getting to work tomorrow and seeing what we can do."
Maryland, after losing their second conference game at home this season, has very little margin of error left before we replace speculation about NCAA with three different letters—NIT.
Student Section, Continued (and hopefully ended)
After walking onto the court to the customary ovation from the student section, Maryland Coach Gary Williams broke with pre-game tradition and took the microphone, clearly and decisively addressing those students.
Williams told them, "It seems like we've been on the road a lot this season. During that time we've probably heard every obscenity there is. That being said, we cannot have obscene chants, we can not wear obscene t-shirts. We're too good for that. It only hurts us with officials, hurts how we are perceived across the country. It's got to stop. Help us win the games. Thank you!"
In the post-game press conference, Williams strongly defended his team's fans. "I thought our crowd was great today," Williams said. "To say that the University of Maryland is worse than any other school in the nation is completely untrue. That's just the feeding frenzy that goes on here when the Redskins don't have practice. Every place we've played this season I've heard obscene things yelled from their crowd. This crowd has been great for us ever since I've been here. They were great my first year here, and they're great now."
These statements are not likely to calm some of the ridiculous criticism that has been directed at him from places like the Duke Basketball Report, but he gets high marks from this writer.
There were no incidents in the crowd today. The true test will likely come with Duke's visit next season.
Notes From Under the Shell
This was the eighth time the Terps have played on Super Sunday. They split the previous eight games, including going 2-2 vs. NC State.
After Maryland's loss today they now trail the Wolfpack by 69-65 in their all-time series. The Terps have now won ten of their last 11 games vs. NC State. The Wolfpack has now low 15 straight in College Park, last defeating Maryland during the 1988-89 season.
Jamar Smith ended his scoring slump with a team-high 21 points today. Caner-Medley, with 10 points, was the only other Terp in double figures. John Gilchrist had another tough day shooting, making only 4-12.
NC State was led by Hodge with a season-high 28 points and freshman Atsur, who set a new career-best with 16 points (4-5 from three-point range). Hodge, perhaps the best all-around player in the ACC, added 9 rebounds and 5 assists. The Wolfpack was 8-11 from beyond the arc in the second half despite coming in only shooting 32.1% from three-point range.
D. J. Strawberry's role in the Terps' rotation is diminishing while Mike Jones' is increasing. Chris McCray handled the back up point-guard duty today instead of Strawberry, and Jones' 10 minutes of playing nearly equaled Strawberry's 11. With Maryland's difficulties in their half-court offense (the Wake Forest first half excepted), expect this trend to continue.
Look for Travis Garrison to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup. Coach Williams said, "We have to figure out a way to come out of the locker room ready to play." Assuming no one has been spiking their water, it would seem Garrison needs to take Ibekwe's spot. Garrison scored 7 points and grabbed 5 rebounds on 29 minutes of action today, while Ibekwe did not score and had only two rebounds in 11 minutes..
On a day when you would expect all of the NFL owners to be attending that big football game they played today, Ravens' incoming owner Steve Bisciotti was occupying his usual seat courtside at Comcast Center. Good call, Steve!
Terps football coach Ralph Friedgen was very visible at Comcast today, hosting a large group of potential members of what is expected to be an outstanding recruiting class.
Maryland's next game is at Virginia on Wednesday at 9 PM and will be televised on the Raycom/JP network. Make no mistake, folks, this is a must win game for the Terps.
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