GREENSBORO, N.C., March 4 -- Perhaps it was the billboard outside Greensboro Coliseum that read: "Fear the Turtle. Good Luck Terps." -- the only such sign by a school at the ACC tournament -- that inspired Maryland. Or maybe it was the urgent need to reverse the tailspin the Terrapins have been in the last couple of weeks.
Wherever its motivation came from, Maryland turned in one of its better performances of the season to defeat Clemson, 66-55, in a first-round game Friday night.
The Terrapins (20-8), who recorded their first 20-win season in 12 years, will play North Carolina State (21-6) in Saturday's quarterfinals at 8 p.m. It was also the first time in 10 seasons that Maryland has won tournament games in back-to-back years.
"That was a lot of fun," Maryland Coach Brenda Frese said. "It was just a tremendous team win for us. The greatest thing is everyone contributed. I was just so proud of our energy and our intensity."
Among the 5,421 fans who turned out to watch the Terrapins win their opening game was former Maryland running back LaMont Jordan, who recently signed as a free agent with the Oakland Raiders. Jordan, a longtime supporter of the team, sat behind the Terrapins' bench.
This was a much different game than when these teams met on Feb. 6, an 87-82 win by Maryland. In that game, the Terrapins had to score from the outside -- making 11 three-pointers -- because Clemson limited ACC rookie of the year Crystal Langhorne to 12 points by double- and triple-teaming her underneath the basket.
Clemson (8-20) had no answer for Langhorne this time. She scored half of Maryland's points in the first half, including 10 of its points during a 14-5 run that put the Terrapins ahead 32-20 at halftime.
"We were very aggressive getting a lot of touches inside," Frese said. "We ran a lot of sets for Crystal, and as Crystal always does, she delivered."
Langhorne scored 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting and grabbed 16 rebounds for her sixth consecutive double-figure rebounding game.
"They just ran some plays for me, and I've been getting the ball," said Langhorne, who has scored 57 points in her last two games. "It's just been happening. Some games I get the ball. Some games I don't. They doubled, but the plays we ran got me open offensively."
Although Clemson has struggled this season, Maryland couldn't take the Tigers lightly considering how it had been playing recently. In their last two games, the Terrapins had allowed Virginia Tech to shoot 58 percent from the floor and Northern Colorado to make 16 three-pointers.
Maryland played much better defense against Clemson. The Tigers made only nine field goals in the first half, shooting 28 percent from the floor. It was the first time since the Terrapins had held an opponent under 60 points since Coppin State scored 51 on Dec. 20.
"As far as the last couple games go, we went back in the lab and corrected our mistakes," said Kalika France, who finished with 12 points. "We tried not to make the same mistakes."
According to Frese, Maryland is looking forward to playing North Carolina State. The Terrapins lost to the Wolfpack, 67-55, on Jan. 23.
"We're extremely excited about the matchup," Frese said. "We love our bracket. N.C. State came into our place at home and beat us. It will be easy to motivate this group."
WAKE FOREST 61, VIRGINIA TECH 56: The seventh-seeded Hokies made an unsuccessful debut in the ACC tournament, losing in a first-round game.
The Demon Deacons (15-13), who won a first-round game for only the third time in the last eight ACC tournaments, will play second-seeded Duke (26-3) on Saturday. Virginia Tech (17-11) must wait to see which tournament it gets invited to: the NCAA or WNIT.
"Unfortunately, we're in a situation [where] we've got to sit and wait," Virginia Tech Coach Beth Dunkenberger said. "I think a lot will be determined how other leagues turn out."
Virginia Tech made only 29.9 percent of its shots. Wake Forest didn't shoot much better, making only 30 percent of its field goals.
Dawn Chriss (St. John's) scored 18 points to lead the Hokies.