RALEIGH, N.C. -- North Carolina State, the hard-luck team of the Atlantic Coast Conference, had another dose of ill fortune last night when it fell to Maryland, 86-84, after a valiant comeback came up short.
The Wolfpack trailed by 20 points with just under nine minutes left, and came back to get within a point, at 85-84, in the final minute.
But a charge against Al Pinkins with 12.8 seconds left denied one go-ahead opportunity, and N.C. State missed three shots on its final furious possession.
"Evidentally, we seem destined to make great runs and lose at the buzzer," said N.C. State coach Les Robinson, whose last-place Wolfpack (14-12, 3-10 ACC) has lost eight ACC games by a combined 24 points.
Down one, the Wolfpack regained the ball in the final 17.3 seconds when Keith Booth's three-point airball caused a shot-clock violation. But Rodney Elliott drew a charge call against Pinkins when State had a two-on-one break for the go-ahead basket.
"All you can do in that situation is try to take the charge," said coach Gary Williams, whose Terps improved to 14-9, 6-6. "He had a great defensive play, although we didn't play much defense in the second half."
"I tried to play the best two-on-one defense I could play," said Elliott, who also hit all six of his shots to finish with 13 points. "Al Pinkins kept coming. I knew if I could get my feet planted, I could get the charge."
Booth hit one of two free throws with 9.3 seconds left to give Maryland a two-point cushion.
N.C. State rushed downcourt and Ishua Benjamin missed a three-pointer, C. C. Harrison's turnaround follow shot bounced off the rim and Todd Fuller's tip went off the back iron as the horn sounded.
Fuller, the ACC's leading scorer, led the Wolfpack with a game-high 23 points and Johnny Rhodes (8-for-9) scored 20 for the Terps.
Williams had pulled Maryland out of its full-court press with seven minutes left, but returned to it for the last two State possessions.
"If you lose a game like that, you want to lose it aggressively," said Williams, who second-guessed his strategy. "We pulled off our all-out press with seven minutes left and it was too early; we never got [momentum] back."
But for Maryland, the win was all that mattered.
"If you win by 20 or by two, it doesn't matter," said Booth, Elliott's onetime Dunbar teammate who had 17 points and seven rebounds. "But we lost our composure down the stretch."
Maryland used a 13-6 run to start the second half to break open a 14-point lead. Dunks by Booth and Laron Profit, sandwiched around a Wolfpack turnover, gave the Terps a 56-42 lead.
When Elliott hit a jump shot with 12:55 left, Maryland had opened a 64-46 margin.
Exree Hipp scored an old-fashioned three-point play -- field goal, free throw -- at 10:29 on a fallaway jumper as he was fouled to make it 69-51.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Jeremy Hyatt and Fuller got State as close as 15 on two occasions.
But a layup by Rhodes and a three-point basket by Profit pushed Maryland's lead to 20 with 8:54 to play, 76-56.
The Wolfpack answered with a six-point run on a layup by Pinkins, two free throws by Fuller and a steal-and-dunk by Benjamin. That narrowed Maryland's lead to 76-62 with 7:32 to play.
After a Maryland turnover, a three-point shot by Ivan Wagner pulled State within 76-65. And when Benjamin hit two foul shots at 6:23 after another steal, it was a nine-point game and the crowd reached a crescendo.
Rhodes stopped State's 11-0 run with a layup and scored again at 5:30 for an 80-68 lead.
Maryland's lead was 10, at 80-70, when Pinkins stole the ball from Mario Lucas at midcourt and Hyatt was fouled.
Lucas hit a jumper at the other end and it was 82-71, Maryland.
The Wolfpack got within six, on a follow shot by Hyatt and a steal by Pinkins -- against Rhodes -- that ended with a dunk.
Profit missed the front end of a one-and-one and after getting fouled on the rebound, Fuller hit one of two. That cut the Maryland lead to 83-78 with 3:15 to go.
Profit and Danny Strong traded baskets to make it 85-80.
Pinkins scored inside after Profit was called for a charge to make it 85-82.
After a turnover by Hipp, two free throws by Hyatt cut the lead to 85-84 with 54.4 seconds left.
After trailing by as much as six in the early going, Maryland finished the first half with a 13-5 run and 43-36 lead.
The Terps' Dunbar contingent played big in the first half. Booth scored eight of Maryland's first 18 points, and Elliott scored nine of the last 17.
It was Elliott's three-pointer from the corner with 4:44 left in the half that gave the Terps a 33-31 lead and one minute later he scored on a short jumper to make it 35-31.
After hitting 60.3 percent from the field in a nonconference win over Missouri last Sunday, the Terps drilled 56.3 percent in the first half against the Wolfpack.
Their passing was exceptional in that stretch. The Terps' first four field goals came either on layups or shots from within five feet until Terrell Stokes banked a three-pointer off the glass to forge a 13-13 tie. Maryland rang up 11 assists in the first half, led by Stokes with four.
Rhodes hit back-to-back three-pointers midway through the half to turn a three-point Maryland deficit into a three-point Maryland lead (24-21).
The Wolfpack fired blanks from the three-point line, hitting just three of 13 attempts.
Fuller, the 6-11 center who scored a season-low eight points in State's 77-74 overtime loss to Maryland in College Park, passed that total with 10 minutes to play in the first half when he hit a short baseline jumper over Lucas. That gave him nine points, and he finished the half with 13.