Pack Hammers Terps In Complete Victory

<B>RALEIGH, NC --</b> Needing a huge win, the NC State Wolfpack players responded as they hit big shots all night and routed Maryland, 82-63. Five different players knocked down three-pointers and four reached double-figures for the Pack in the crucial victory.

Using a potent offense and stifling defense, NC State jumped out to a double-digit halftime lead vs. Maryland tonight at the RBC Center and held on for a 19-point victory, 82-63. The win boosted the Wolfpack to 15-10 overall and 5-7 in ACC play, elevating the Pack's postseason hopes.

What had coach Herb Sendek happiest following the contest was State's ball distribution: the Wolfpack had 22 assists on 25 made field goals. State put four players in double-figures, led by Tony Bethel (17 points) and Ilian Evtimov (17), along with Engin Atsur (14) and Julius Hodge (13). The Pack also got a crucial all-around game from center Jordan Collins, a Maryland native who chipped in with nine points, nine rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot in just 23 minutes. Hodge also added nine assists, seven boards, two blocked shots and a steal, and his 7-of-8 effort from the charity stripe was part of a 19-for-21 free-throw performance that helped the Pack salt the game away in the final minutes. Cameron Bennerman (two three-pointers) and Cedric Simmons (three blocked shots) also made some pivotal plays off the bench.

The opening moments feature a back-and-forth pace and little defense, with no falls called until 14:01 remained in the half. NC State went up 17-12 on a three-pointer from Bennerman, but Maryland answered with an 8-2 run that gave the visitors a 20-19 lead. However, the Wolfpack countered with a blistering 22-5 run that allowed State to seize control of the game and lead by as many as 20 (44-24) in the opening 20 minutes. Nik Caner-Medley kept the Terrapins in the game with 17 first-half points, but the Pack won the battle of the boards, 22-15, and led by 14 points, 48-34, at intermission.

Maryland came out fighting in the second half, cutting the lead to 50-40 as part of a 12-4 run. The Wolfpack answered with an 8-1 streak, but the Terps reeled off 10 straight points to cut the margin to just seven, 63-56, with 7:16 remaining. At that point, State had been whistled for seven fouls and Maryland only one, a fact pointed out to the referees by Sendek. A layup by Atsur was followed by huge three-pointers by Bethel and Collins, pushing the Pack advantage back to 15, 71-56, with 3:40 left. NC State then took care of business from the free-throw line, with its first miss coming with just 1:42 left. The Wolfpack downed nine of its final 11 from the charity stripe to win going away, 82-63.

Maryland came into the game having won 10 of 13 against the Pack, but Terrapins coach Gary Williams could only tip his cap to Sendek and the Wolfpack following the game.

"I think Herb Sendek prepares his team better than anybody we face," he told the media. "He deserves more credit than he gets. It's a tough area down here."

The Pack limited Caner-Medley to zero field goals and just two points in the second half, but he finished as Maryland's leading scorer with 19. Chris McCray and Travis Garrison added 11 apiece, but NC State killer John Gilchrist contributed just seven points and missed five of his six field-goal attempts. The Wolfpack outrebounded the Terps, 39-33, and committed just 12 turnovers while swatting away six shots and collecting eight steals.

The romp completed a season sweep of the Terps for State, with the victories coming by a combined margin of 35 points. Next up for the Pack is a home game vs. UNC on Feb. 22, followed by a home matchup with Virginia Tech (Feb. 26), a trip to Virginia (March 2) and a contest vs. Wake Forest at the RBC Center to close the regular season on March 6. If State can continue play like it did against Maryland down the stretch, the Wolfpack can still realize postseason hopes.

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