For the third time in a row, NC State faded down the stretch.
Engin Atsur hit a 3-pointer with 15 minutes remaining to pull the Wolfpack within a point of visiting Maryland, but that was as close as the game would get the rest of the way.
"I don't know what happened," Gavin Grant said. "We didn't score and they just kept getting lay-ups or putbacks or free-throws. It seemed like we were stuck and they just kept going."
Maryland slowly pulled away from the Pack, scoring with ease while every offensive possession for State became a struggle. By the final buzzer on Wednesday night, the Terps walked off the court at RBC Center with an 80-65 win.
"We did a pretty bad job on defense," Atsur said. "They kept scoring. Even if we scored they just kept coming back and scoring."
For most of the second half, the Pack (13-11, 3-8 ACC) looked like an exhausted team. Meanwhile Maryland (19-7, 5-6) never took its foot off the gas, constantly running on the undermanned Wolfpack.
"We are going to do the best we can but its hard to do with only six, seven guys," Engin Atsur said.
Once again, four Wolfpack players logged at least 35 minutes of action. The only starter that didn't play nearly the entire game was Courtney Fells, who left in the second half after re-injuring his tail bone.
"We don't like to admit it, I actually hate to admit it, but the truth of the matter is if you play a lot of minutes all the way through the season its going to wear and tear on you," McCauley said.
Sidney Lowe isn't one of the people chalking the Pack's problems up to exhaustion, though.
"I don't think we're running out of gas," Lowe said. "Its just concentration, sticking with it and playing through it. This is not anything new."
Exhausted or not, the Wolfpack couldn't find a way to contain the Maryland offense in the second half. After limiting the Terps to just 41 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes, the Pack allowed Maryland to shoot an astounding 63 percent in the second half.
"We don't have no type of energy," Grant said. "Granted at Miami there weren't a lot of people in the stands, as well as here, but we have to create our own energy. We haven't been able to create that lately."
Maryland grabbed the lead from the outset and kept it during the entire first half, leading by as much as eight. The Pack put together a mini-run in the final minute of the half to pull within two, 39-37. Dennis Horner drained a 3-pointer from the wing as time expired to give the Pack a little momentum going into the second half.
The energy boost carried over to the start of the second half, with State tying the game on a Grant 3-pointer early. But the momentum was stifled by McCauley's missed dunk with 13 minutes remaining. With the Pack down four, McCauley fought hard for an offensive rebound and had a wide-open dunk to cut the lead back to two, but never controlled the ball and the attempt caromed off the rim. Maryland recovered and drained a 3-pointer at the other end.
"When he missed that one its a five-point swing right there," Lowe said. "That certainly was a big play."
The loss gives the Pack its first three-game losing streak of the season and keeps them in a tie for 10th place in the league.
"To lose like we did tonight, we really wanted to play well in front of our home crowd," McCauley said. "To not do that is really frustrating and embarrassing."