By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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Alex Len finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds and had a key block in the final seconds to help Maryland escape with a 58-57 victory over Alabama on Tuesday night in the NIT quarterfinals.
Maryland used a small lineup to mount a big comeback in a 62-52 victory over Denver on Thursday night in the second round of the NIT. Dez Wells scored 19 points for the Terrapins, who closed with a 23-4 run after trailing 48-39 with 9:15 left.
North Carolina and its four-guard lineup have a chance at another Atlantic Coast Conference championship — thanks in part to a Maryland guard whose last-gasp shot fell way short.
Wells was 9 of 13 from the field and 10 of 10 from the free throw line to lead the seventh-seeded Terrapins (22-11), who delivered the first big shocker of the week in Greensboro and advanced to the semifinals for the first time since 2009.
Wells scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half and Maryland beat pesky Wake Forest 75-62 on Thursday night in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Since beating Duke, Maryland has lost three of five — including a deflating 79-68 defeat at home against North Carolina on Wednesday night.
Wells, a Raleigh native who played AAU ball for the Chris Paul All-Stars, was 11 of 12 from the field and finished two points shy of his career high of 25 set Dec. 2 against George Mason.
Maryland spread the wealth, with six players — Logan Aronhalt, Alex Len, Jake Layman, James Padgett, Seth Allen and Dez Wells — scoring in double figures. Aronhalt led the way with 13 points, while Padgett poured in 12 on 6-for-6 shooting in his second start of ACC play.
Michael Snaer made a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to lift Florida State to a 73-71 win over Maryland on Wednesday.
North Carolina led Maryland by 22 points at the break after probably its best half of the season. That lead never dipped below double figures.
Miami avoided a letdown after its road win at North Carolina.
Freshman guard Jake Layman scored 18 of his 20 points in the decisive first half, and Maryland rolled past Virginia Tech 94-71 Saturday for its 13th consecutive victory.
Pe'Shon Howard might spend as much time in the Comcast Center media room as anyone on Maryland's roster. Even on days when the point guard doesn't duck in, though, he has a pretty good idea what sort of questions coach Mark Turgeon is fielding from scribes.
This was a change of pace, a stark contrast to the de facto scrimmages Maryland partook in over the previous three games.
"We all know we're still playing for something," forward Dez Wells said. "It's not the NCAA tournament, but it's a great tournament to play in so I'm excited about that."
"Everyone tells me I'm the energy guy on this team, and they go as I go," Wells said. "That's the role that I have, and I just want to do what I have to do for my team to win. I can't let these guys down."