Originally created 03/10/02

N.C. State upsets Maryland



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Maryland coach Gary Williams has gotten used to losing in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

The second-ranked Terrapins last captured the ACC tourney 18 years ago and were riding a 13-game winning streak before Saturday's 86-82 loss to North Carolina State in the semifinals.

"I remember this feeling," Williams said. "It's funny, it didn't take long to remember it."

Anthony Grundy scored 24 points, and Julius Hodge sank a big 3-pointer with 1:17 left to key the Wolfpack upset. N.C. State, which snapped a six-game skid against Maryland, shot 65 percent in the second half and made 11 3-pointers one day after hitting 13.

"A good team doesn't like to get beat, so they came out and gave us their best shot," Williams said.

The Wolfpack will play three-time defending champion Duke in Sunday's championship game. The Blue Devils beat Wake Forest 79-64.

Regular-season ACC champion Maryland (26-4) was in its eighth straight conference semifinal, but it has advanced to the title game just once in that span under Williams - in 2000, when it lost to Duke.

"We took everybody's shot during the regular season and did what we had to do to win the regular season," Williams said.

"We knew we would have to come down here and play really well. It just didn't look like we were as sharp as we were last week - and mentally it's been a long haul. Hopefully, we can get that mental edge back."

N.C. State (22-9) used a unique game plan to reach the tourney final for the first time since 1997, when Herb Sendek became the first coach to take an eighth-seeded team to the championship game. The Wolfpack lost the title to North Carolina that year.

As Illian Evtimov intercepted a pass at the buzzer, Sendek threw his arms up and his players mobbed each other at center court.

"We've been hungry all year," Grundy said. "We just didn't want to come out here and let them have their way with us. We got into the game, we got up and that gave us more confidence. We felt we were able to play with them."

The fourth-seeded Wolfpack won by pressuring Maryland guard Steve Blake with a fullcourt trapping press. When the Terrapins pounded the ball down low to Lonny Baxter or Chris Wilcox, N.C. State surrounded them with as many as four players at a time.

"We changed defenses a lot, and our big guys stepped up," Grundy said. "We just got great help. This was no individual effort, it was more of a team effort. It takes team defense for us to win."

It also helped that Maryland star Juan Dixon had an off-game, going 6-of-16 for just 13 points.

Dixon has more than 2,100 career points, but will leave Maryland without an ACC tournament title.

"Those guys were prepared and they outplayed us on both ends of the floor," Dixon said. "That's why in these tournaments you've got to be ready to play for 40 minutes. If not, you can lose just like that and be gone."

The Terrapins are still expected to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

"Maybe this is good for us," Dixon said. "This brings us down off that high. We were very confident in our ability to win this tournament. Maybe now guys can commit a little bit more to this team the next three weeks."

Grundy was coming off a career-high 32-point effort in a 20-point quarterfinal win over Virginia - and he was just as spectacular in this one, until missing some important free throws late.

The senior guard was 9-of-12 from the field with eight rebounds. Marcus Melvin added 19 points, Archie Miller 16.

Blake led Maryland with 21 points and 11 assists.

The Wolfpack went up 67-64 with 7:13 left before going on a 10-0 run to break the game open - or so it appeared. Miller had a 3-pointer and two free throws in the spurt, while Grundy had a twisting layup and Melvin a 3-pointer.

However, the Terrapins didn't go quietly.

Three free throws by Blake got Maryland to 81-78 before Hodge hit his 3-pointer.

But poor free-throw shooting by the ACC's best team from the line kept Maryland in it until the end.

The Terrapins had a chance to tie it twice in the final 30 seconds, but Dixon threw the ball away once and his off-balance 28-footer with 3.2 seconds wasn't close.

Grundy sealed it with a free throw.

"I thought it was a good opportunity for me a create a shot," Dixon said. "I have a lot of confidence in myself that I can make that shot. I got nicked and fouled on my shots all day long, but that happens."

N.C. State started 9-for-15 as Melvin made three 3-pointers in a span of five minutes and the Wolfpack bolted to a 24-12 lead.

After Melvin's layup put the Wolfpack up by 12, Williams called his second 30-second timeout to try to slow down N.C. State's surge.

Coming out of the huddle, Williams stomped his foot on the floor in vintage Lefty Driesell fashion and yelled: "Come on, wake up!"

The Terrapins responded. Williams inserted Tahj Holden into the frontcourt in place of the slumping Wilcox for the second straight game, and Maryland scored 11 consecutive points as part of a 19-2 run.

But N.C. State settled down and got a layup and 3-pointer from Grundy over the final 1:44 of the half to take a two-point lead at the break.