Maryland lost its composure tonight and it cost a conference game.
Leading by five points with less than five minutes to play, the Terrapins went scoreless for 5:08 and fell to North Carolina State, 67-62, in Reynolds Coliseum.
From the 5:15 mark to the :008 mark in the game, the Wolfpack turned a 60-55 deficit into a 65-60 lead. A Clyde Austin jump shot put State ahead, 61-60 with 3:11 left and four free throws by Hawkeye Whitney in the last minute widened the margin.
"The last five minutes we just lost our composure offensively," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said. "Our shot selection was poor and we took some bad shots. They played smarter than us at the end and that was the difference in the ball game."
State raised its Atlantic Coast Conference record to 2-0 and its overall record to 10-1. Maryland is 3-1 in the ACC and 10-2 in all games.
"I thought our offensive patience took its toll on both ends of the floor at the end," State Coach Norman Sloan said. "I though they got a little tired."
Whether it was fatigue or some other ailment, the Terps, a smooth, solid team for 35 minutes tonight, fell apart in the final five minutes.
The Terrapins started out tonight as if they meant to blow the Wolfpack out in front of 11,000 of its own fans.
Albert King scored the first eight points and 15 in the first half, as the Terps eased to a 39-35 halftime lead. Twice in the second half they had chances to stretch a six-point lead to eight, but failed.
"We started playing better defense the second half," said Whitney, who shared team scoring honors with Austin (16 points). "The first half King and Graham were going one on one and getting open shots. The second half Coach told us to double-team them, Slough off inside and make them work for their shots more."
The tactic worked as King, five for six from the floor the first half, went two for eight and also got only three rebounds.
"I knew they weren't going to give me the open shot all night," King said. "I was trying to get inside or feed the guards outside. I don't know that we lost our composure. Give their defense some credit."
State's defense was keyed by the ball-hawking of forward Art Jones and De Matha graduate Sidney Lowe. Lowe, a 6-foot freshman, also keyed the State offense down the stretch, shooting six for seven and setting up teammates with patient ball-handling and passing.
But in the end, State needed help from Maryland to win this one.
When Buck Williams (10 points, 15 rebounds) dunked the ball off a Dutch Morley feed with 5:15 left, the crowd was quiet and State look frazzled.
A 15-foot jump shot out of the corner by Lowe narrowed the gap to 60-57. Still, Maryland looked to be in control. But instead of working patiently for a good shot or a foul, the Terps rushed things. Ernest Graham (17 points) tried to force a shot over Jones, who blocked it.
Quickly, State worked the ball to Whitney, ice-cold up to that point, and he canned another jumper to make it 60-59. With 4:19 left, Drisell called time out.
"I just told them what I always tell them in that situation, 'get a good shot, be patient," he said later.
His words were not heeded. Nineteen seconds after the time out, King fired an off-target 18-footer. Craig Watts rebounded for State. Patiently, the Wolfpack worked the ball around the perimeter until Austin came open in the corner.
Now it was 61-60 and Reynolds Coliseum was a red sea of screaming hysterics. Driesell called time again. On this trip, the Terps didn't even get off a bad shot. Williams tried to force a pass through the middle and Jones stole the ball.
"I saw Ernest come free underneath," Williams said."He had a layup. But the ball never got there."
Now, with 2:48 left, Sloan called time. "Be patient," he told his team. "Only a high-percentage shot."
With the Terps chasing, the small but quick Wolfpack worked every corner of the court until King went for a steal with 51 seconds left. He slapped the ball loose from Whitney near midcourt.
But before he could take a step referee Hal Grossman stopped him. "Of course I'm going to say it wasn't a foul," King shrugged. "It could have gone either way."
Both of Whitney's free throws went one way -- in the basket. It was 63-60, State.
Now Maryland had to hurry. Graham missed with 37 seconds left and King fouled Watts. The Terps were granted a brief reprieve -- Watts missed the front end of the one-and-one.
But when King was double-teamed at the other end, he fed Manning, who drove the lane, missed and was called for charging into Watts with 19 seconds left.
"I never felt myself hit anyone," Manning said.
The miss was Maryland's eighth straight. Whitney was fouled on the inbounds and with 17 seconds left sealed the outcome by making both foul shots. Graham finally broke the Terp drought with eight seconds left but Whitney's ear-shattering dunk at the buzzer brought the house down one last time.
"We let this one get away," said Manning. "But we'll see them in Cole."