Terps roar into final

Pride hurt by Williams, 19-point deficit, UM storms by 'Pack, 85-82

Rally greatest in ACC tourney

Gilchrist's 30 points are career high

No. 6 seed eyes 1st title since '84

Acc Tournament

March 14, 2004|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. - John Gilchrist was not going to take it anymore. Neither were the rest of the Maryland Terrapins or their angry coach, who questioned their desire and stoked their pride with a pointed halftime speech.

Twenty minutes later, after the Terps had averted an embarrassing ending to a promising weekend by running down a tired North Carolina State team and engineering the greatest second-half comeback in the history of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Maryland was navigating in unexpected waters once again.

One day after upsetting third-seeded Wake Forest on a last-second free throw by Gilchrist, the sixth-seeded Terps rode the greatest game in the young career of their sophomore point guard to an 85-82 takedown of the second-seeded Wolfpack in the ACC tournament semifinals, before 23,745 at Greensboro Coliseum.

Gilchrist scored a career-high 30 points, sparked by torrid 5-for-7 shooting from three-point range. He produced seven assists and four steals - both game highs - and was literally perfect in a 23-point second half when the Terps made up a 19-point deficit. And because of Gilchrist, the Terps are going where few people thought they could travel two weeks ago.

For the first time since 2000 and only the second time since 1984, which was the last year Maryland won the ACC tournament, the Terps (18-11) are in the conference tournament title game. Two days after avoiding a three-game season sweep at the hands of Wake Forest, Maryland will try to deny the same today against top-seeded Duke.

What a weekend. What a reversal of fortune in every way for Maryland, which dwarfed Wake Forest's 34-22 comeback against Clemson in the 1987 ACC tournament in Landover.

The Terps entered the tournament as the league's worst three-point shooting team and its poorest free-throw shooters. They ended the regular season with a habit of spotting opponents huge leads, only to stage determined comebacks before coming up short.

Yesterday, Maryland shot a season-high 56.4 percent overall and made a season-high 81.8 percent of its foul shots, and offset a 31-point show by junior forward Julius Hodge.

But first, they fell under the early spell of N.C. State's three-point shooting, fell behind by 21 points late in the first half, then limped into the halftime locker room in a 45-26 hole.

"We didn't talk X's and O's. We talked tradition. We're a better team than that. Let's show it," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who decided to throw full-court pressure at N.C. State to create some easy baskets and grab a slice of momentum.

"I knew we'd play better in the second half. I didn't know if that would translate into a win, but I had no doubt that we could find some way to [compete]. Pressing wasn't a hard gamble to take. There was no other way to go."

And, just like that, a Wolfpack squad short on depth - senior guard Scooter Sherrill and backup forward Jordan Collins were out with injuries - started running out of fuel. Just like that, the Terps set about making history.

This time, Maryland leaped over the hump with a 59-point half. It was their most productive half of the season and the second-largest outburst in the tournament's 51-year history. And it only took the Terps eight furious minutes to catch the 17th-ranked Wolfpack.

Gilchrist hit the first of his four second-half threes to give Maryland its first lead of the game at 56-55 with 12:04 left. He kept firing during a sequence of six lead changes, getting a kind bounce on one of his threes. He banked in his final three-pointer at the 7:34 mark to give Maryland a 66-65 advantage it would not concede.

"Coach hurt our feelings. He told a few players they weren't playing like nothing," Gilchrist said. "Who were we to disrespect this program? We owe everything to this program. We should be jumping for joy that they gave us a scholarship.

"Certain times [on the court], you do what the coach wants you to do. Sometimes, you've just got to let it go. When your back is against the wall and you're facing humiliation, you've just got to do anything you can to help your team. We needed scoring, so I was going to try to do it."

There was nothing N.C. State could do to stop Gilchrist, who was 9-for-9 from the field in the second half. Nor could the Wolfpack, who were a six-man squad gasping for air down the stretch under the weight of Maryland's nine-man rotation, contain senior center Jamar Smith.

He dominated Wolfpack forward Marcus Melvin (13 points, seven rebounds) by scoring 16 of his 23 points in the second half, and had his best day of the year at the foul line with a 5-for-6 performance.

And it was sophomore forward Nik Caner-Medley, so ineffective offensively for most of his 25 minutes, who gave the Terps their final push by making four foul shots in the game's final 27 seconds, accounting for all of his scoring.

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