Deep Terps wear down 'Pack, 75-60

Blake scores 20, sparks Maryland's sharp shooting during second-half surge

First-place Terps 6-1 in ACC

UM uses depth, 14-0 run to earn 4th straight win

January 31, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland Terrapins figured they had more depth than North Carolina State last night, and they were right. That, coupled with the energy supplied by a friendly sellout crowd, helped the 10th-ranked Terps strengthen their hold on first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a strong second half that produced a 75-60 victory before 17,950 at Comcast Center.

Senior point guard Steve Blake led Maryland with 20 points, senior guard Drew Nicholas and senior forward Tahj Holden added 13 points.

The Terps beat the Wolfpack on the boards decisively and shut down N.C. State guard Julius Hodge, who finished with 14 quiet points on 3-for-8 shooting after entering the contest as the league's leading scorer.

Maryland (13-4, 6-1) won its fourth straight game to conclude January with a 7-1 mark. It also was the Terps' 14th consecutive ACC victory at home, and they beat N.C. State for the 22nd time in the past 26 meetings

The Wolfpack (11-5, 4-2) ended a three-game winning streak and was denied in its bid to take over first place in the conference.

N.C. State, which was trying for its first 5-1 start in ACC play in 14 seasons, lost to Maryland for the 14th consecutive time in College Park.

"When we lost to Florida [on Dec. 14], I know a lot of people didn't think we'd be in this position," said Nicholas, who overcame a scoreless first half and sparked a 14-0 run in the middle of the second half that helped the Terps erase a 28-27 Wolfpack halftime lead.

"I know this is just a point in time," he added. "We're only 6-1 with a lot of basketball left to play. But this feels good."

The Terps were not at their flashy best, but they continued to do whatever it took to drag home a victory. It started with defense, which produced 21 turnovers against a Wolfpack team that had averaged only 11 during its three-game winning streak.

The defensive stars were senior Calvin McCall and freshman Nik Caner-Medley, who combined to keep Hodge under wraps.

"I didn't even think about offense tonight," said Caner-Medley, who scored nine points and added five steals, three assists and three rebounds in 21 active minutes. "One-hundred-and-20 percent of my preparation was to contain Julius Hodge."

Forwards Marcus Melvin (15 points) and Josh Powell (12 points) kept the Wolfpack in contention for a while, but N.C. State could not counter Maryland's superiority on the boards. The Terps, led by a career-high 10 rebounds by junior forward Jamar Smith, out-rebounded the Wolfpack 33-23, including a 12-4 edge on the offensive end.

N.C. State used its spread offense effectively enough to slow Maryland's attack for quite a while, but the Terps took advantage of the Wolfpack's foul trouble and used pressure defense and terrific outside shooting to break open a close game with a 14-0 run in the middle of the second half.

Maryland made its first six three-point attempts of the second half, with the first two coming from Blake, who kept the Terps' offense afloat by himself for stretches and had seven assists.

"My shot just felt really good," said Blake, who was 7-for-10 overall and made all four of his three-point attempts. "I don't care if it was a pretty win or an ugly. It was a Maryland win, and that's all that matters."

But after Nicholas, scoreless for nearly the game's first 26 minutes, buried his first three-pointer to give Maryland a 43-38 lead with 14:15, the Terps got hot.

After a three-pointer by Wolfpack forward Levi Watkins, the Terps went on their decisive run, which was helped by N.C. State point guard Clifford Crawford picking up his fourth foul with 12:20 left, just after Holden had started the run with a pair of free throws.

Over the next 2:18, the Wolfpack committed five turnovers and only got off one shot - a missed three-point attempt by Hodge - while the Terps refused to miss.

Nicholas fueled the run by making a pair of 25-footers, making it 51-41 with 10:48 to go. Caner-Medley converted a fast-break layup off a turnover, and Holden and Smith each made two free throws to complete the run, and Maryland held a 57-41 lead with 10:02 left.

The Wolfpack closed the gap to 60-54 by making three three-pointers during a 13-3 run, but after losing Powell after a nasty collision under the basket with 5:57 to go, then losing Crawford for good to fouls with 3:49 left, N.C. State could not overcome Maryland.

"Drew and Steve were a great backcourt out there tonight," said Terps coach Gary Williams. "Drew is a senior. If he has a bad half, he isn't going to go away. Steve did a great job picking his spots. He was feeling his shot, but he complemented it with some great penetration.

"I think this team is developing a character. We're going to have to work hard every night; that's the way it is. We're finding ways to win, and I'm proud of them."

Next for Terps

Matchup:No. 10 Maryland (13-4) vs. Loyola (4-14)

Site:Comcast Center, College Park

When:Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

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