If the Terrapins manage to catch Duke and win the ACC regular-season crown, circle their second-half effort at NC State as the turning point in the schedule.
Playing an NBA-style third game in five days, Maryland had trouble finding a rhythm at either end in the first half but somehow gutted out a 67-58 victory, their eighth triumph in the last 10 games.
Maryland (18-7 overall, 8-3 ACC) stayed one game back of league- leading Duke, and escaped a trap game that seemed destined to be a loss when the Terps went down by 12 in the first half to the last-place Wolfpack.
Maryland now heads home and gets all of two days rest before facing Georgia Tech Saturday in the Comcast Center. The Terrapins are 12-1 at home this year, 5-0 in ACC contests there and have won those conference games by an average of 19 points. Three of the Terps' last five games are at home, including a March 3 date with Duke.
Maryland looked ripe for the picking Wednesday, though, struggling on offense and a step slow on defense, perhaps a result of that quick turnaround after playing at Duke Saturday and hosting Virginia Monday after that game was postponed by snow last Wednesday.
But the Terrapins used a 22-5 run late in the game to take control and keep NC State coach Sidney Lowe winless against Maryland. The run included 13 unanswered points, Vasquez and Adrian Bowie among the offensive heroes. Bowie, who has struggled with his perimeter shot much of the season, hit two big second half 3-pointers.
During the Terrapins' recent skein of wins, the Terrapins have generally been running on all cylinders with contributions from each of those starters. The fact that the team could keep its composure on a rough night, ratchet up the defense when it had to and take control of a tough game on the road are all good signs for a Terrapin team still searching for national respect.
Maryland was perhaps on the cusp of moving into the national polls before losing by 21 at Duke. Remember the Terrapins were tabbed to finish fifth in the ACC preseason poll but currently reside in second place after dodging a bullet in Raleigh.
MARYLAND 67, NC STATE 58: Greivis Vasquez scored 26 points and dished out six assists as the Terrapins overcame a 10-point second half deficit and gutted out a road win at NC State. The Terrapins slogged through a tough first half but ultimately got their feet under them.
Vasquez got 17 of his points after intermission, and freshman center Jordan Williams matched his season high with 19 points. The Terps shot 56 percent in the second half and turned up the defense, holding State without a field goal for nearly nine minutes as they stormed back to take the lead.
--Senior guard Greivis Vasquez, with 1,995 points, 717 assists and 613 rebounds, will become the first ACC player ever to record 2,000 points, 700 assists and 600 rebounds in a career.
--Center Jordan Williams had his second straight double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds at State. He has five double-doubles this season, tops among ACC freshmen.
--Eric Hayes' streak of 20 consecutive free throws ended when he missed the front end of a one-and-one in his only attempt Wednesday night.
--Landon Milbourne, who has 1,043 career points, is one of just four players to reach the 1,000-point plateau after scoring less than 25 points as a freshman. He had 16 his rookie year, and joins a list that includes NC State's Brian Howard, Wake Forest's Delaney Rudd and Maryland's Kevin McClinton.
ON THE SPOT: NC State cashed in on several second-chance opportunities with 10 offensive rebounds Wednesday night. Rebounding has been a recurring sore spot for the Terrapins throughout the season. Duke pounded Maryland mercilessly on the glass, particularly the offensive end where the Blue Devils crashed in for 18 boards and not only scored often that way but shut down the Terrapin transition game.
Can freshman center Jordan Williams and undersized, 6-7 power forward Landon Milbourne hold up? They are certain to be tested in the coming weeks. Look for Greivis Vasquez, a 6-5 guard who led the team in rebounding last season, and Sean Mosley, a 6-4 scrapper, to help more on the defensive glass.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You don't worry about that. You worry about the next game. That's the only way that you can do it." -- Coach Gary Williams, asked about the difficulty of playing three games over a five-day period.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SEASON RECAP: Maryland dropped behind Virginia Tech in the ACC standings with the loss at Duke. The Terps then beat Virginia to improve to 7-3. They are 17-7 overall and, barring a major collapse, should make it back to the NCAA field.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters -- F Landon Milbourne, F Jordan Williams, G Eric Hayes, G Sean Mosley, G Greivis Vasquez. Key Subs -- F Dino Gregory, F James Padgett, G/F Cliff Tucker, G Adrian Bowie.
Maryland 71, Florida State 67
Maryland 92, North Carolina 71
Duke 77, Maryland 56
Maryland 85, Virginia 66
Maryland 67, NC State 58
vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday, Feb. 20
vs. Clemson, Wednesday, Feb. 24
at Virginia Tech, Saturday, Feb. 27
IN FOCUS: The Terrapins looked sharp against Virginia, but fatigue could be a factor at N.C. State just two days later.
--Senior guard Eric Hayes has hit 20 consecutive free throws dating to Jan. 3. He had a season-high nine assists against Virginia.
--Junior Cliff Tucker, averaging 6.0 ppg off the bench this season, has raised his game recently with 26 points (8.7 average) the last three games, including 12 at Duke. Tucker hit a big three to help squelch a Virginia second-half rally.
--Greivis Vasquez recently became Maryland's all-time leader in three-point field goal attempts, passing Juan Dixon's (1999-2002) mark of 615. Vasquez has 625. He needs 31 three-pointers made to pass Dixon's career mark of 239.