- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Maryland point guard John Gilchrist owned Greensboro Coliseum yesterday as the Terrapins pulled off a historic comeback to shock N.C. State 85-82 in the ACC tournament semifinals.

Gilchrist, inconsistent at times this season, scored a career-high 30 points to go with seven assists and four steals. Twenty-three of his points came in the second half as he made all nine of his shots from the floor to fuel the Terps’ dramatic rally.

“He basically just took over the game,” teammate Chris McCray said. “The shots he was taking, I was like, ‘No way.’ But they were going in.”

Maryland matched a season-high four-game winning streak and will play top-seeded Duke for the title this afternoon. The Terps (18-11) are in their second final since 1984 (the other was 2000), which was the last time Maryland won the crown. The Blue Devils will be aiming for their sixth consecutive tournament title after beating No.4 Georgia Tech 85-71.

N.C. State led by 21 in the first half and 19 at intermission before the Terps put on their suffocating fullcourt press. The 17th-ranked Wolfpack promptly unraveled, and rushed their customarily disciplined and time-consuming Princeton offense. Maryland’s comeback after being down 45-26 at halftime is the largest in the tournament’s 51-year history.

“I knew we would play better in the second half,” said coach Gary Williams, whose sixth-seeded Terps upset No.3 Wake Forest 87-86 Friday night. “I didn’t know if that would translate into a win. … I don’t remember coming back that quick in a game of this magnitude. It was great to see.”

Maryland shot 67.7 percent in the second half and made 13 of 15 free throws after intermission.

The Terps, who all but assured their 11th consecutive NCAA tournament berth with two victories in the final week of the regular season, will learn their first-round destination and seeding tonight. N.C. State (20-9) lost to Maryland for the second time in two weeks despite 31 points by Julius Hodge.

“The one thing about this team, is, I thought we would get better,” said Williams, whose team lost seven straight to ranked teams before winning the next three. “We lost some, so people probably didn’t share my opinion. I knew we were getting better and then last week when we beat N.C. State and Virginia, that’s what the players needed to verify that they were getting better. I didn’t know if we were going to win these two games, but we came in with the idea that we could compete against top-20 teams.”

Maryland scored 15 points in the first three minutes of the second half to begin a 30-4 run. The Terps took their first lead on a 25-foot 3-pointer by Gilchrist with 12:04 left in the game.

“Coach really hurt our feelings,” Gilchrist said of Williams’ halftime comments. “He told us a few guys weren’t playing like anything. That’s all it was. He was like, ‘Who are we to disrespect this program?’”

Gilchrist took over after that while center Jamar Smith (23 points, 16 in the second half) beat bigger opponents for inside scores and Maryland’s depth wore down N.C. State, which played its fourth game without starting point guard Scooter Sherrill, who has torn muscles around his right ankle.

Maryland, which came into the tournament shooting 60.8 percent on free throws, made 18 of 22 foul shots (81.8 percent), including 13 of 15 in the second half.

“The biggest turnaround was when we started to press,” said Maryland forward Nik Caner-Medley, who made four straight free throws in the final 27 seconds to seal the win. “They started bickering and yelling at each other. Their team chemistry kind of got messed up with the press. I could tell they were falling apart.”

The Terps came out of halftime on a 7-0 run starting with a 3-pointer from Travis Garrison. A steal by McCray (12 points) off the press set up his leaner in the lane to cut N.C. State’s advantage to 45-33 and prompting the Wolfpack to call time out. Hodge’s 3-pointer gave N.C. State a 50-35 lead.

Maryland went on an 18-3 tear after that and used a technical foul on the Wolfpack for delay of game for a four-point play as part of a 10-0 run before tying the game at 53-53 on Garrison’s baseline jumper.

The Terps led 72-70 when Gilchrist drained a key 3-pointer to push the lead back to five. With 2:12 left, Maryland was up 79-78. When McCray missed a 3-pointer, the Wolfpack had a chance to take the lead, but Terps freshman D.J. Strawberry blocked Marcus Melvin’s layup. A finger-roll layup by McCray after Hodge backed off him anticipating a pass to Gilchrist made it 81-78 with :29 left.

Hodge made one of two free throws to cut the lead to two with :29 left. After Caner-Medley’s two foul shots made it 83-79, N.C. State botched a chance to close the lead by taking too much time off the clock. Caner-Medley clinched the win on two foul shots with :04 left.

Now Maryland gets another chance to send Duke into the ACC title game on a negative note. The Blue Devils won both regular-season meetings, 68-60 at Comcast Center and 86-63 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

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