When Julius Mays hit a 3-pointer with four minutes remaining to give the No. 10 seeded Wolfpack a 62-61 lead, it seemed the Pack had enough energy to push it over top of No. 7 seed Maryland. But the Pack offense would fall silent after that shot, with an 11-0 Terrapin run crushing the Pack's hopes for a tournament run and possibly ending its season with a 74-69 loss on Thursday night in the opening round of the ACC Tournament in Atlanta.
The Pack will now wait to see if it receives any post season invitation with its final 16-14 record. Since being bought by the NCAA, a winning record in a major conference is no longer enough to earn a bid as smaller conferences send their regular-season champion automatically. The Pack could receive and invitation to the new CBI tournament as well if the NIT doesn't extend a bid.
Mays was the lone highlight for the Pack on the night. Despite not playing for most of February and March, the freshman scored a career-high 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the floor. Senior Ben McCauley scored 14 points and had seven rebounds in what could be his final game in a Wolfpack uniform. Dennis Horner was the only other Pack player in double figures, scoring 11 points and going a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line.
The two teams traded baskets for the first few minutes of the game before the Pack hit its stride offensively. The No. 10 seed jumped on the Terrapins with a 16-2 run as a couple of steals from Mays and some hot shooting helped the Pack build a 21-8 advantage. The Terps, meanwhile, started the game just 4-for-16 from the floor.
But Maryland, desperately in search of a win to keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, counted with its own run to retake the lead. Three straight 3-pointers by Eric Hayes helped ignite the Terrapin offense, as Maryland went on its own 20-4 streak to give them a three point advantage. The Terrapins switched to a 3-2 zone, short-circuiting a Pack offense that had seen the same zone from Maryland in its loss to the Terps just over a week ago.
The Pack made it 29-29 at the half thanks to a few late baskets, as Mays led the Pack in the half with seven points. Despite out-shooting and out-rebounding the Terps in the half, the Pack was unable to create any separation as the season-long plague of turnovers continued with 13 in the half.
Both squads continued to trade baskets in the second half, as Vazquez amped up his play to help keep the Terrapins in front of the Pack for most of the half. After scoring just four points in the first half, Vazquez put up 10 points in the first seven minutes of the second half as well as dishing out assists to 3-point shooters Hayes and David Neal on the perimeter.
Mays did his best to keep Pack in it, scoring eight straight points to give his team a short-lived one-point lead. But Vazquez and the Terrapins got the last blow in, as the point guard hit a 3-pointer with just under three minutes remaining to give Maryland a four-point lead. The Pack would get no closer, as the Terps closed out the game on the free-throw line. Maryland went the entire second half without a committing a turnover.