Maryland Mounts Furious Second-Half Comeback, Upsets NC State 85-82
March 13, 2004
By JENNA FRYER
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Gary Williams stomped and shouted his way up and down the Maryland sideline. Yet even when his team trailed by as many as 21 points, he never panicked.
Instead, he lectured his team on Maryland's rich basketball history.
The Terrapins responded with the largest comeback in Atlantic Coast Conference tournament history, overcoming a 19-point halftime deficit to beat No. 17 North Carolina State, 85-82 on Saturday.
"We talked at halftime about the tradition of the university ... the great teams and great players," Williams said. "We have a great deal of pride on this team this year and we knew we were going to come out and play in the second half."
The charge was led by John Gilchrist, who scored 23 of his career-high 30 points to rally sixth-seeded Maryland (18-11) into Sunday's final against Duke.
It's the Terps first championship appearance since 2000, and they'll be going for their first title since Len Bias and coach Lefty Driesell led them to the 1984 championship against the Johnny Dawkins-led Blue Devils.
"Winning would be a great thing because the winner is the champion of the league," Williams said. "I know we did it in 1958 and then again in the 80s. But there have been good teams that didn't win it. Lefty had good teams that didn't win it."
Maryland will be facing the top-seeded Blue Devils, who will be trying for their record sixth consecutive tournament title. Duke beat the Terps twice this season by a combined 31 points.
"They beat us pretty good at their place (by 23), but we gave them a game at home," Gilchrist said. "I think here on a neutral site, it will be a game and we'll be ready to go."
They know Gilchrist will. The sophomore guard has come up big in this tournament for the Terrapins, making the game-winning free throw in the 87-86 victory over No. 15 Wake Forest in the quarterfinals.
And he couldn't miss against North Carolina State (20-9), going 11-for-13 from the floor with five 3-pointers and seven assists.
Julius Hodge led the Wolfpack with 31 points.
But the best free throw shooting team in the nation at 79 percent, the Wolfpack went 17-for-22 at the line against Maryland. Hodge missed one of two with 29 seconds to play and N.C. State trailing 81-78.
Nik Caner-Medley was fouled for Maryland, made both his shots, and gave the Terps an 83-79 lead. Marcus Melvin then missed two shots for the Wolfpack. Caner-Medley eventually got the rebound and was fouled.
He made another two free throws to lock up the win as Williams pumped his fists to the standing Maryland crowd.
"Our guys knew it was a 40-minute game," Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek said. "We certainly didn't have any thoughts that the game was over at halftime. We knew that Maryland has an outstanding team and they would make a run."
Jamar Smith finished with 23 points for Maryland, and Chris McCray added 12.
Ilian Evtimov scored a career-high 19 for the Wolfpack on 7-for-10 shooting. Melvin added 13.
The Wolfpack led by as many as 21 points in the first half behind Evtimov, who was 5-for-5 - including four 3-pointers - as they took a 45-26 lead into the break.
But Maryland opened the second half by pressing N. C. State and the change in defense confused the Wolfpack.
The Terrapins scored the first seven points to get N.C. State's attention, and they were just warming up. Behind Gilchrist's hot hand, Maryland made 11 of 15 shots and tied the game at 53 on Travis Garrison's basket with 12:50 to play.
Suddenly, everything that had gone so right for the Wolfpack in the first half stopped working. Evtimov began missing his shots and, after shooting 62 percent as a team in the first half, so did everyone else.
Playing without Scooter Sherrill for the fourth straight game because of an ankle injury, and Jordan Collins, out with a sprained knee, the Wolfpack ran out of bodies.
"We didn't have as much of a lift as we usually do off the bench," Hodge said. "Sometimes that's going to happen. You have to find ways to win and we didn't."