N.C. State's Richard Howell snares a rebound between Maryland's Berend Weijs, left, and Nick Faust. (Ethan Hyman/Associated Press)

Maryland’s unbeaten romp in December did wonders for the young Terrapins’ confidence. But opponents such as Mount St. Mary’s, Radford and Samford hardly foreshadowed the physical front court and intense ball pressure Maryland faced Sunday in its ACC opener at North Carolina State.

Too often in Raleigh’s wildly partisan RBC Center, Maryland lost the battle when it came to toughness — whether fighting for rebounds or simply hanging on to the ball.

The result was a 79-74 defeat that snapped Maryland’s seven-game winning streak and served as a reminder of how far the Terrapins have yet to go to become a force in the conference.

While 7-foot-1 freshman center Alex Len was frequently shoved around under the basket, he played a key role in paring a 14-point second-half deficit to three, mounting a furious effort on the boards and establishing a stronger inside presence as the game ground on to finish with his first double-double of the season (12 points, 11 rebounds).

But in the end, Len’s effort — and a game-high 25 points by Terrell Stoglin — weren’t enough, bringing an end to Maryland’s nine-game wining streak against N.C. State (12-4, 1-0 ACC).

“We never stopped competing,” Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon said of his squad. “We played to the end, and we lost to a pretty good team on their home floor that shot the ball really well.”

It was Maryland’s first game of the season in a hostile arena, and a vocal crowd of 18,057 turned out to cheer on the Wolfpack and taunt the Terrapins as if the ACC title were at stake.

After taking a 6-2 lead on quick three-pointers by Sean Mosley and Stoglin, Maryland (10-4, 0-1) went three minutes without a field goal.

Len snapped the drought with a jumper from 12 feet. But by then, N.C. State’s Scott Wood (19 points) and C.J. Leslie (20 points) were getting in a groove.

With Len well blanketed by the Wolfpack’s 6-9, 231-pound DeShawn Painter, James Padgett muscled inside for layups to help pare a seven-point deficit.

And with 2 minutes 35 seconds remaining in the first half, Len knotted the score at 30 from the free throw line after getting hammered on an inbounds play.

But N.C. State closed the period with six consecutive points to take a 36-30 lead into the break, having manhandled Maryland in the paint (20-10), on the boards (21-16), on second-chance points (11-5) and fast-break points (10-3).

Maryland came out swinging in the second half but mishandled a lob pass early. The deficit grew to 42-33.

Stoglin hit a three-pointer, and Len led a fierce campaign to right the rebounding deficit.

But on balance, Maryland squandered too many possessions on turnovers and rushed shots, while N.C. State kept banging away on its end of the court, rebounding its misses and following with easy put-backs.

An elbow to the face sent Stoglin to the line for three free throws, and he sank them all to pull within three, 54-51, with a little more than 10 minutes remaining.

That was as close as Maryland would get. The Terrapins paid dearly for the defensive lapse that followed, with N.C. State erupting for a 13-2 run.

Stoglin made a three-pointer with four seconds left to cut the deficit to 77-74, but N.C. State held on.

“Basically we weren’t getting back on defense,” Stoglin said. “Everything else was good. If we would have got back on defense, we would have won the game.”