Throughout this season, Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams has fought a battle with his players to establish the parameters for success. Yesterday at Cole Field House, his words seemed to get through.
Maintaining their poise throughout a taut second half that packed enough emotion for an entire season, the Terrapins delivered a 104-100 ACC victory over North Carolina State to a boisterous crowd of 14,203.
"This was just a great game for Maryland. It's how it should be here and how it will be in the future," said Williams.
The Terrapins' first 100-point effort of the season was born of a number of heady performances. Matt Roe scored 29 points and had 10 rebounds -- both career highs. A steady hand throughout the afternoon, Roe's backcourt partner, Kevin McLinton, had a career-best 12 assists.
Forward Vince Broadnax had a career-high 24 points and eight assists. Defensively, he led an effort that limited North Carolina State star Rodney Monroe to two field goals in the final 16 minutes. Even so, Monroe, the ACC's leading scorer, finished with 31 points, three more than teammate Chris Corchiani.
After shooting zero for 10 in the first half, Corchiani hit nine of 11 shots -- six of them three-point field goals. The Wolfpack set conference records for three-pointers made and attempted, going 16 for 42. Ten of those came in the second half, threatening to render a nightmarish finish to what had appeared to be a dreamlike afternoon for Maryland (11-7, 2-4 in the ACC), which was ahead by 17 points with 13:21 remaining.
North Carolina State (10-5, 3-2) came within 101-98 with 51 seconds left following a three-point play by Bryant Feggins, but Matt Downing made one of two foul shots for Maryland on the ensuing possession.
After two free throws by Monroe with 34 seconds remaining, the Terrapins worked the ball around the perimeter until the Wolfpack fouled Garfield Smith. He made two foul shots with seven seconds left.
When the final buzzer sounded, it unleashed a series of leaps and hugs from the people who charged onto the court.
As might be expected, much of the celebration was done by Williams, obviously impressed by his team's collective effort.
"This has to be the closest we've come this year to 40 minutes of Gary Williams basketball," said center Cedric Lewis, who had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. "We didn't play particularly well at the start, but we always played hard."
The coach wasn't sure if that was to be, particularly at the start of the game. Wednesday, the Terrapins viewed films of N.C. State's impressive 95-89 win over Duke the night before. When Maryland then suffered through a horrendous practice the next day, Williams was concerned his players may have been intimidated by the Wolfpack.
That wasn't the case though, as evidenced early in the game when McLinton, bothered by Corchiani's defense, pushed Corchiani away. In retaliation Corchiani elbowed McLinton's head and was called for an intentional foul.
"I think we came out and showed N.C. State that we weren't scared of them and that we weren't going to let them dictate the pace," said McLinton.
In fact, when the Wolfpack began its second-half surge, Maryland not only kept pace but improved on its first-half performance, hitting 59 percent of its shots, one point better than the opening 20 minutes.
"The worse thing you can do is pull back too early," said Williams. "Once State got back in the game, we had to keep it up. The way they were playing, if we had tried to slow it down we would have lost."
Down the stretch, there was barely time to blink, let alone contemplate a change in style. Corchiani's jumper with 3:12 left made the score 94-86, Maryland; a three-pointer by the senior made it 96-90 with 2:27 remaining. Roe hit a three-pointer but Corchiani answered with a three-pointer of his own for 99-93.
Broadnax made one of two free throws for Maryland with 1:18 to play; Corchiani responded with a pair of foul shots five seconds later.
That made it 100-95 Maryland. With 1:02 left, Downing made one of two foul shots, setting up the stirring finish.
"We thought that if we got close we'd have the opportunity to win, and we did that," said Corchiani. "But if you look at everything, the thing that makes the difference is effort and I think that Maryland wanted to win the game more than we did."