Maryland upset N.C. State Lorenzo Charles style.
Pe'Shon Howard drove down the left side of the lane in the final seconds and shot a floater toward the basket that was off target. Sophomore big man Alex Len was there to grab it in midair and place in the basket for the go-ahead points with .9 left on the clock. Maryland hung on for a 51-50 victory.
The winning play was reminiscent of the one that won the national title for the Wolfpack against Houston at The Pit in Albuquerque in 1983, though Howard's shot was much closer to the basket than the 30-footer Dereck Whittenburg took 30 years ago. Charles grabbed that near the rim and scored as time expired and former N.C. State coach Jim Valvano ran wild around the court.
Obviously not nearly as much was riding on this regular season meeting between old ACC rivals, but it was a benchmark game for N.C. State in at least one way. The Wolfpack has a long history of losing its next conference game after beating either Duke or North Carolina.
N.C. State celebrated last week after beating then-No. 1 Duke at home, but over the past 20 seasons, the Wolfpack is now 1-13 in the next ACC game following wins against Duke or North Carolina, including the loss to Maryland on Wednesday. Maryland has provided six of those setbacks.
Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said the Terrapins managed to win the game despite running the called play incorrectly taking the ball out of bounds with less than six seconds left in the game. Len was the only Maryland player who scored in double digits. He finished with 10 points.
“The execution was terrible,” he said in his postgame interview with ESPN. “We got lucky on the shot, but sometimes you got to get lucky.”
It's unfortunate for N.C. State that it wasn't able to reverse the history working against it, but it didn't exactly fall on its face. In fact, the Wolfpack deserves credit for fighting back twice from double-digit deficits. Maryland tight defense forced the Wolfpack to shoot just 31 percent.
N.C. State could have fouled without sending Maryland to the free throw line in the waning moments. It did so once just before the final play. Maybe it should have fouled again in the final seconds to make Maryland win the game by executing a play with even less time on the clock. In the end, N.C. State lost because a Maryland sophomore made a heady play, just like Charles three decades ago.
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