The Wolfpack's underclassmen helped State seize the early lead. Scott Wood scored off back-to-back steals, including a nifty finish in transition, and Jordan Vandenberg had a putback on a missed shot by Julius Mays as the shotclock expired. The 9-0 spurt gave State a 24-17 advantage with 6:50 left in the half.
The Terps would cut the lead back down to five, but State's other senior, Dennis Horner, had an offensive putback, his third of the half, and a deep 3-pointer in front of Maryland's bench that would give State a 37-27 halftime advantage.
For the half State shot only 44.4% from the field but held Maryland to 33.3% shooting while only having just five turnovers. A big key was the Pack battled on the glass and limited second-chance opportunities. The Terps ended the first half by hitting just five of their last 21 field goal attempts.
You knew Maryland would come out looking to get Vasquez even more involved in the second half, and they did just that. After the Pack pushed the lead to 12, Vasquez hit a tough 3-pointer over Degand as the shotclock expired and followed that up with a great outlet pass to center Jordan Williams for a fastbreak layup. Horner and the Pack countered with an old-fashioned three-point play to push the lead back to ten, but you got the sense that Maryland was starting to turn up the pressure.
Maryland kept trying to push the tempo and score easy baskets with Vasquez leading the way. He hit a floater to cut the Pack's lead to six at 46-40 with under 12 minutes remaining. Just before the television timeout a crucial walk was called on Horner that wiped away a basket, and Maryland came right out and took advantage. The Terps scored five quick points to cut the Pack's 12-point lead to just one in a matter of minutes.
Horner once again was their with the answer, scoring five straight points, but from that point on it was all Maryland. Trailing by six, the Terps outscored State 22-7 over the final nine minutes and received contributions from several players. Vasquez hit a couple of huge buckets and reserve Adrian Bowie scored eight in the second half. Big man Jordan Williams controlled the paint and really limited Tracy Smith's effectiveness as Maryland doubled-down all night to help Williams.
While the Terps were scoring State really struggled offensively. After Horner's five-point outburst, the Pack finished the game with just one made field goal, a meaningless three-pointer from Julius Mays in the final minutes, and squandered several scoring opportunities by forcing bad shots and making terrible decisions.
"I thought we had at least six guys in the second half that just took bad shots," said Sidney Lowe after the game. "It was like one after another, and then they came down and scored. That started their run.
"That's frustrating. I just explained to them how you can lose a game. You lose a game by taking bad shots, by not defending, by deviating from your plan and what you've been doing. We made a lot of bad decisions in the second half. That's frustrating because it wasn't that difficult."
After shooting a respectable 44% in the first half State hit just 23% of their shots over the final twenty minutes while Maryland shot 56% from the floor in the deciding half.
Dennis Horner played a great game for the Wolfpack. The 6'9 senior scored 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting and added a team-high 10 boards. Tracy Smith scored 10 while Farnold Degand and Scott Wood chipped in nine each. State shot 35% for the game and hit just 4-of-16 3-point attempts.
Maryland was led by Vasquez and Williams. Vasquez, who is arguably the frontrunner for the ACC's Player of the Year Award, scored a game-high 26 points and also totaled six assists and four boards. Williams had 19 points and 11 rebounds to win the battle with Smith. Lowe was certainly impressed with the play of Vasquez.
"Like him or not, he's a tough, tough guy," Lowe said of Vasquez. "He's tough mentally, and he just took the team right on his back and led them on in there. That's what good players do."
Next up for NC State (14-13, 2-10) is a home game Saturday at 2:00 against in-state rival Wake Forest. The Wolfpack will be looking to snap a seven-game conference losing streak.