- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Drew Nicholas provided the bang that made sure Maryland wasn't going to go out with a whimper.
Nicholas took an inbounds pass and drove the length of the floor in the final five seconds, hitting an off-balance 3-pointer as time expired to give the defending national champions a 75-73 victory over UNC Wilmington in the first round of the NCAA South regional at Gaylord Entertainment Center last night. Officials reviewed the replay to ensure he released the shot before time had expired.
"To be honest, I thought it was short," Nicholas said. "I was shooting off one foot, running. I know the shot didn't look the prettiest, but it went in. I couldn't believe it."
Nicholas' shot kept alive the Terrapins' hope for a third straight Final Four and meant they didn't become the first defending champs since UCLA in 1996 to get knocked out in the first round.
Nicholas led Maryland with 22 points, but much of Maryland's damage was done inside. Ryan Randle scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in delivering an impressive performance on both ends. Forwards Nik Caner-Medley (12 points) and Tahj Holden (seven) gave Maryland a three-pronged attack that helped keep Maryland in the game despite UNC Wilmington's blistering outside shooting.
"I was just coming out hard and aggressive," Randle said. "I was just trying to hustle and let everything come together."
Sixth-seeded Maryland (20-9) faces third-seeded Xavier (26-5) tomorrow, with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 on Friday in San Antonio. Xavier beat Troy State 71-59 last night.
Guard John Goldsberry paced the Seahawks (24-7) with a career-high 26 points and set an NCAA tournament record by making all eight of his 3-point attempts. Goldsberry averaged only 4.2 points and scored just 22 points in the last five games combined. Guard Brett Blizzard hit three straight 3-pointers late to finish with 15 points.
The Terps were plagued by foul trouble, especially to their backcourt. Guards Steve Blake and John Gilchrist were benched early in the second half. Blake picked up his fourth foul and was benched nearly 12 minutes because coach Gary Williams couldn't jeopardize a close finish without his All-ACC playmaker, who hadn't fouled out all season. Randle also missed five minutes after a torrid start because he drew two quick fouls.
Maryland played its best game since beating Clemson on Feb. 25. The Terps shot well, ran the offense crisply and rebounded consistently. But the Seahawks simply wouldn't fold in their quest to pull a first-round upset over a ranked team for the second straight year.
Maryland led 46-41 at halftime over pesky UNC Wilmington, which managed to re-energize in the last 2:30 of the first half after tiring badly during a Maryland run.
Randle opened with eight points in the first four minutes before sitting with his second foul. After scoring one point in the first half of the last two losses, Randle converted all four shots against UNC Wilmington using his size advantage. He wouldn't score again the rest of the half but had seven rebounds by intermission.
Randle's absence was a bigger problem defensively. The Seahawks were suddenly able to split the Terps' inside defense for easy layups to lead 24-18 with 11:06 remaining in the first half.
Randle's return nearly five minutes later sparked a 7-0 run by Maryland, including five by Caner-Medley, that gave the Terps a 25-24 lead with 9:34 left. The sudden streak was Maryland's most impressive spurt in weeks. However, UNC Wilmington countered with a 7-2 spurt for a 31-27 edge with 7:45 remaining, showing no fear of Maryland.
UNC Wilmington, however, looked tired and sloppy after Blizzard went to the bench with his second foul. Maryland scored eight straight points to lead 37-34 with 4:13 left after 3-pointers by Nicholas and Blake and a dunk by Holden when UNC Wilmington was unaware play had begun. Maryland used the 15-3 run to lead 42-34 with 2:30 left before Blake picked up his third foul and went to the bench. UNC Wilmington went nearly 11 minutes without a two-point basket before forward Anthony Terrell sank a 5-footer with 1:10 remaining.
Maryland was caught short at point guard when Blake and Gilchrist drew their fourth and third fouls, respectively, in the opening four minutes of the second half, forcing little-used Andre Collins and Nicholas to run the offense.
Maryland managed to stay ahead by six points until Goldsberry hit his eighth straight 3-pointer and Blizzard emerged from a 2-for-12 slump for a 3 to tie the game at 62-62 with 6:11 remaining. Blake then returned after sitting almost 12 minutes, but Blizzard hit two more 3-pointers for a 68-63 UNC Wilmington lead with 3:38 left.
Nicholas countered with a looping 3-pointer to close to 68-66, and Maryland went to its attacking pressure defense. The Terps then managed one point on their next four trips while UNC Wilmington used three free throws to lead 71-67 with 1:41 left. Randle then scored two free throws with 41.5 seconds left.
Blake sank a 3-pointer with 20.4 seconds for a 72-71 lead before UNC Wilmington forward Aaron Coombs sank two free throws with five seconds left for a 73-72 lead.
Notes Maryland wore its road red uniforms instead of the home whites despite being the higher seed because three white uniforms were missing.

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