Maryland stuns No. 14 North Carolina State 51-50
There might come a time in the near future when Maryland fans won't feel compelled to storm the court after a home win over the 14th-ranked team in the country.
There was no holding them back on Wednesday night, however, because this celebration was long overdue.
Alex Len dropped in a missed shot by teammate Pe'Shon Howard with 00.9 seconds left, giving the Terrapins a stunning 51-50 victory over No. 14 North Carolina State.
Howard drove the left side and came up short on a 5-footer, but the 7-foot-1 Len grabbed the ball in front of the rim and eased it through the hoop. After the Wolfpack failed on a desperation heave at the other end, thousands of students in the sellout crowd poured onto the court after the final buzzer to mark Maryland's first win over a ranked team since March 3, 2010, against No. 4 Duke.
Now in his second season at Maryland, coach Mark Turgeon is still trying to take the program to the level it enjoyed under its predecessor, Gary Williams. This win, despite being rather ugly, was a significant step in the rebuilding process.
"I didn't come here to be mediocre," Turgeon said. "I came here to do great things. We haven't done many great things since I've been here. This is a great thing."
It was lucky, too.
As Howard threw up his shot from the left side, it quickly became apparent it was going to be short.
"When he shot it, I said, 'Oh no!' Then I saw the big guy go up," Turgeon said. "Alex was in the right place at the right time."
Len, with 10 points, was the only Terrapin to score in double figures. Maryland led for much of the game but needed Len's basket to end NC State's 10-game winning streak.
Maryland (14-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won 10 of 11 against the Wolfpack (14-3, 3-1), including five straight at home. The Terrapins had previously lost 17 straight against ranked teams.
"We hadn't won a big game since Greivis (Vasquez) was here," Turgeon said.
Lorenzo Brown scored 17 points for N.C. State and C.J. Leslie had 13. The Wolfpack came in leading the NCAA with a 52.8 shooting percentage, but in this one they shot a miserable 31.1 percent.
"We were offensively pretty bad," coach Mark Gottfried said. "We bobbled balls, we had shots around the rim we couldn't make and it wasn't one guy. That was one of those nights. You're going to have those and we haven't had a lot of them this year.
Coming off a stunning upset of then-No. 1 Duke, the Wolfpack trailed by 10 points with 9:34 left. Brown hit a jumper with 1:41 remaining to put North Carolina State up 50-49, and neither team scored again until Len's game-winner.
"I thought our defense and our effort was phenomenal and our fight to get back in the game a couple of times was unbelievable," Gottfried said. "We started the game off 10 down, we were down nine or 10 in the second half and fought right back and put ourselves in a position to win."
Down 45-43, the Wolfpack pulled even on a follow shot by Richard Howell and took their first lead on a 3-pointer by Scott Wood with 4:37 to go. But N.C. State never found its shooting touch — Wood finished 3 for 13, including 3 for 11 from beyond the arc.
"They played really good defense, and when we had opportunities to knock down shots we usually make, we didn't," Wood said.
Asked if this negated the win over Duke, Gottfried said, "They all count as one. We're going to move on."
Maryland led 30-21 early in the second half before Brown made two baskets — including a driving dunk — during a 9-2 run that cut the margin to one point.
James Padgett then scored for the Terrapins and Jake Layman popped a 3-pointer to make it 37-30. Minutes later, a 3-pointer by Howard put Maryland ahead 40-31, and a driving layup by teammate Dez Wells made it a 10-point game.
The Wolfpack went 6½ minutes without a basket before a driving layup by Leslie cut the deficit to 42-35. That was part of an 8-0 spurt that got N.C. State to 42-40.
A horrid first half ended with Maryland leading 22-16 despite shooting 30 percent, going 0 for 6 from 3-point range and committing seven turnovers.
The Wolfpack needed more than 7 minutes before getting onto the scoreboard and shot 23 percent (7 for 31) in its lowest-scoring half of the season.
Maryland got off a solid start, getting two baskets apiece from Seth Allen and Shaquille Cleare in going up 10-0. The Wolfpack opened 0 for 6 with three turnovers.
Howell ended N.C. State's scoring drought with a layup at the 13:52 mark, and then the Wolfpack missed their next six shots. Maryland also went cold, missing 16 straight field-goal tries over a span of nearly 12 minutes. Howard snapped the dry spell with a driving layup to put the Terrapins ahead 16-13.