COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland Terrapins had the home crowd, more energy and more players than North Carolina State last night, and the 10th-ranked Terps strengthened their hold on first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a strong second half that produced a 75-60 victory before a sellout crowd of 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 apiece, and the Terps beat the Wolfpack on the boards decisively (33-23) and shut down N.C. State guard Julius Hodge, who finished with 14 quiet points.
Maryland (13-4, 6-1) won its fourth straight game and 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.
North Carolina State used its spread offense effectively enough to slow Maryland's attack for quite a while, but the Terps took advantage of Wolfpack 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.
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 when N.C. State point guard Clifford Crawford picked up his fourth foul with 12:20 left, just after Holden had started the run with a pair of free throws.
Over the next 2:20, the Wolfpack committed four 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.
Freshman forward Nik Caner-Medley converted a fast-break layup off a turnover, and Holden and forward Jamar Smith each made two free throws to complete the run, and Maryland held a 57-41 lead.
"Drew and Steve were a great backcourt together out there in the second half," said Terps coach Gary Williams. "Drew is a senior and if he has a bad half, he's not going to go away. Steve did a great job picking his spots. He was feeling his shot but he complemented it with great penetration. The backcourt was really patient tonight."
Said Blake: "A lot of people didn't expect us to be here [first place in the ACC]. It's definitely gratifying."
The Wolfpack closed the gap to 60-54 by making three three-pointers during a 13-3 run, but after losing forward Josh 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.
As expected, the Terps came out determined to exploit N.C. State's lack of depth by working the ball down low in an attempt to get the Wolfpack frontcourt in early foul trouble.
But the Terps missed numerous open shots -Nicholas went 0-for-4 in a scoreless first half - and committed 11 first-half turnovers, yet played tough enough defense to trade leads with the Wolfpack over the final eight minutes of the first half and trail by 28-27 at halftime.
Maryland fell into an early 10-4 hole, as Marcus Melvin and Scooter Sherrill got the Wolfpack going by hitting three-pointers, while the Terps drew fouls and had trouble getting their offense going. After the Terps dug into their bench, things started to flow their way.
Blake started a 6-0 run by freezing Hodge with a great crossover dribble and driving the lane for a layup. Smith then followed with a dunk off of an offensive rebound.
Caner-Medley, who combined with senior Calvin McCall to limit Hodge to seven points in the half, then grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a short follow-up to tie the game at 10 with 13:36 left in the half.
The Wolfpack, which struggled with its shots by making only two of 11 three-point attempts in the opening half, answered with five straight points to take a 15-10 lead. First, Powell burned Maryland on a backdoor layup. Then, Hodge broke his scoreless drought by converting a three-point play at the 12:33 mark.