- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

RALEIGH, N.C. Maryland guard Drew Nicholas just wanted to drive to the basket when his lane suddenly closed. He settled for a game-winning 3-pointer.
The No. 14 Terrapins escaped with a stirring 68-65 victory over N.C. State before 19,722 last night at RBC Center on Nicholas' 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left. The shot came off a double-screen when guard Steve Blake opted to give Nicholas the game-winning attempt when his own screen proved too risky.
"I had just enough space to let it fly," Nicholas said of the shot that gave coach Gary Williams his 500th career victory.
Maryland's bid for the ACC tournament's No. 1 seed remains alive. The Terps (19-7, 11-4 ACC) need to beat Virginia on Sunday in their regular-season finale and need Wake Forest (21-4, 11-3) to lose to N.C. State on Saturday to gain the top seed for the second straight year based on tiebreakers. Maryland has the tiebreaker over Duke for the second seed should the teams finish tied, though the second and third seeds are scheduled to meet in the tournament semifinals.
The loss put a big dent in N.C. State's (15-10, 8-6) hopes of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. After a bitterly fought game that included several intentional fouls, Nicholas didn't worry about possibly eliminating N.C. State.
"Let's not sugarcoat things," he said. "We don't like each other. We're here to win games. Let them determine their own fate."
After winning its last two games by 40 and 39 points, respectively, Maryland had its first buzzer-beating victory of the season.
"It's sweeter," guard Steve Blake said. "Winning like this feels better. You get a big adrenaline rush."
Forward Tahj Holden joked about the way in which Williams earned his milestone victory.
"We had to make him sweat more than normal," Holden said. "It wouldn't have been a memorable 500th [otherwise]."
Holden led Maryland with a career-best 20 points and nine rebounds. Nicholas added 17. Guard Scooter Sherrill led four N.C. State players in double figures with 14 points.
It was a frenetic pace, though there were few transition baskets. Both teams played aggressive defense, with Maryland sporadically using its fullcourt press. N.C. State's versatile smaller lineup managed to offset Maryland's quickness, though the Wolfpack's frontcourt often needed to handle the scoring burden underneath.
The Terps countered by shuttling their guards early when Blake and Nicholas seemed sluggish on offense. Blake missed his four shots in the first half, while Nicholas managed just one first-half basket.
But Maryland's backcourt fueled the Terps' comeback through smothering man defense that even the sure-handed Wolfpack couldn't handle for brief stretches. N.C. State relied on its frontcourt to offset Maryland's backcourt pressure.
Holden kept Maryland close in the first half with 13 points and six rebounds in providing the Terps' only steady inside presence. Center Ryan Randle was double-teamed regularly underneath in finishing with just six points and one rebound, giving Holden some room to draw fouls. Indeed, Holden shot eight of Maryland's 14 free throws in the first half.
N.C. State had a 47-37 lead with 17:18 left before Maryland countered with eight unanswered points.
"You don't have time to think negative thoughts," Williams said. "You're just trying to scramble. You have to stir things up. I thought we were either going to lose by 30 or win this thing."
N.C. State used an 11-2 run for a 58-47 lead with 9:05 left before Maryland's 10-2 counterpunch cut it to 60-59 five minutes later. Blake's 15-footer his only points of the night tied the game at 61-61, and John Gilchrist's offensive rebound conversion with 1:23 left gave Maryland its first lead of the second half. N.C. State tied it with 14.5 seconds left on forward Marcus Melvin's jumper before Nicholas iced the victory.

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