RALEIGH, N.C. – Last week, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon encouraged his uptight team to relax, have more fun and not let the weight of the season's expectations become a burden.
On Monday night, the Terps encountered a struggling, depleted North Carolina State team even more in need of inner peace than they were.
It turned out to be N.C. State that ended the night with something to smile about — a 65-56 victory in which the Terps surrendered an 11-point lead. How could the Terps have any fun when they lost to a Wolfpack team missing its leading scorer and rebounder — T.J. Warren — with an ankle injury?
“It's a bad loss for us,” said forward Charles Mitchell, who had 18 rebounds. “We're better than that team. We know we're better than that team.”
Maryland led 29-20 after a first half in which N.C. State shot 22.2 percent, including 0-for-8 on 3-point attempts. The PNC Arena crowd waited in vain for something to cheer about.
But the Wolfpack — particularly guard Ralston Turner — kept shooting 3-pointers, and they finally began to fall in.
“It's college basketball,” Turgeon said. “It's where we are right now. I wish we played tomorrow, but we don't.”
A 3-pointer by Turner pushed N.C. State's advantage to 57-53 with 4:35 left. Another 3 by the redshirt junior stretched the lead to 62-55. Turner finished with 23 points.
Maryland's last chance came when Mitchell missed a dunk with the Terps trailing 62-56 with 49 seconds remaining. The Terps were forced to foul after that.
Wolfpack fans mocked Maryland (11-8, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) by chanting “ACC” in the final minute. It was Maryland's final ACC game here against the Wolfpack, a team it had previously met 150 times. Both schools were founding members of the ACC 61 years ago.
It was a disappointing homecoming for Maryland leader Dez Wells, who is from Raleigh. The junior scored 10 points on 2-for-11 from the field.
N.C. State won despite Warren's absence. The sophomore forward leads the conference in scoring at 22.2 points per game. Turner, a transfer from LSU, started for the first time in two months for the Wolfpack.
“Obviously we need T.J. We all know that,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. But he said it was valuable for the Wolfpack to learn how to play without him.
Turgeon said he had tried to warn the team before the game not to relax even though Warren would not play. “Guys have a chance to step up for them,” Turgeon said he told the Terps. It was Turner who stepped up, finishing 8-for-19 from the field, including 5-for-15 on 3s.
Turgeon said Maryland guarded poorly in the second half and struggled to get back on defense.
Without the 6-foot-8 Warren, N.C. State was strikingly thin inside.
Maryland, which has had inconsistent post play this season, continually pushed the ball inside and got frequent second-chance opportunities from offensive rebounds.
With the loss, Maryland fell to 1-3 on the road in conference games this season. Last season, the Terps won just two ACC road games. The season before, they won one.
If Maryland was eager for a road victory, the Wolfpack was desperate for any sort of win. N.C. State entered the night having lost four of its previous five games, including a 35-point defeat at Duke.
Twitter.com/sunjeffbarkerCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun