- The Washington Times - Monday, January 24, 2005

Maryland dismissed its recent blowout losses to Wake Forest and North Carolina as expected road beatings by ACC heavyweights. After all, the Terrapins won’t be the only ones to lose badly on Tobacco Road this season.

An embarrassing 85-69 home loss to lackluster N.C. State last night led to no such excuses, however. Maryland trailed by 26 points at halftime before a strong second-half defensive effort averted what would have been a total meltdown before an announced 17,950 at Comcast Center.

As Maryland (11-5, 2-3 ACC) prepares to visit No.4 Duke on Wednesday, the Terps’ NCAA tournament chances appear shaky once more. Maryland clearly isn’t strong enough to beat the ACC’s elite teams regularly, but the Terps came in looking capable of handling the rest. Now even that seems suspect after N.C. State shredded Maryland’s defense for 12 3-pointers.

“You don’t have to go into any X’s and O’s,” Terps coach Gary Williams said. “They dominated us in the first half. We didn’t move. We didn’t go after the ball.”

Maryland entered with some renewed momentum after two home victories, while N.C. State (12-6, 2-3) staggered in after losing five of six. As a result, the Terps hoped to jump on the Wolfpack early. Instead, N.C. State led 16-4.

“I thought it was a winnable game,” Williams said. “We’re playing at home, and State has had some tough times. I thought after two wins we’d be ready to go and really fired up. … I thought things were set up pretty good for us.”

Forward Nik Caner-Medley had sparked Maryland in its past two games and led the team last night with 15 points and 10 rebounds, but he didn’t score until 12:39 remained. After averaging 27.3 over his past three games, Caner-Medley was clearly out of sync most of the game.

“I took good shots in the first half,” Caner-Medley said. “Second half, I took it to the basket. The reason we lost this game was because we didn’t play well in the first half defensively. It has nothing to do with anything anyone did offensively.”

The Terps didn’t seem to have a PlanB on a night when Caner-Medley was cold and guard John Gilchrist continued to run the offense instead of carry it. Maryland made just five of 20 field-goal attempts in the first half and trailed 53-27 at the break.

“I guess everybody was just waiting for somebody else to make a play, and it didn’t come that easily,” Gilchrist said.

N.C. State, meanwhile, didn’t rely on only one or two players. Guard Julius Hodge, second in the ACC in scoring at 18.4, led N.C. State with 20 points, but he received help. Guard Engin Atsur (17 points) hit five 3-pointers, while forward Ilian Evtimov (16) bedeviled Maryland underneath. Even guard Gavin Grant (11) stunned the Terps early by opening the game with two 3-pointers.

“They shot it well, but they had open shots,” Williams said. “We gave them opportunities, and they converted. We didn’t have any intensity out there.”

Said Gilchrist: “We just couldn’t stop them. They played on another level. I don’t know what happened tonight.”

The Terps trailed by 26 at halftime after a miserable shooting effort and little perimeter defense. The Wolfpack hit 10 of 18 3-pointers and added two three-point plays.

N.C. State managed runs of 10-1, 11-1 and 10-2 and led 39-13 before Maryland made its first field goal in 8:37 on a 3 by Gilchrist. The point guard hit a second 3 in an 8-0 run that briefly gave the Terps hope, but N.C. State outscored Maryland 14-5 to end the half.

The defense gave Maryland a chance in the second half. After opening with a layup on its first possession, N.C. State managed only two free throws over the next 8:27. Maryland had runs of 14-2 and 10-2 to close to 61-51 with 8:32 remaining.

“It’s not surprising [Maryland] made a run,” N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said. “Obviously, our guys had to overcome the memory of last year’s ACC tournament game, and that wasn’t easy to do.”

However, N.C. State rediscovered its outside game as Atsur converted consecutive 3-pointers and Hodge scored seven straight points. The crowd headed for the exits as N.C. State led 79-62 with 2:43 remaining.

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