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Terps upend No. 14 NC State

COLLEGE PARK - Alex Len wasn't sure if it was a pass or a shot.

Not that it mattered - Maryland's big man wasn't about to pick Pe'Shon Howard's brain as he drove to the basket with the outcome in doubt of Wednesday's game against No. 14 North Carolina State. Howard let the ball go near the hoop, and Len let his instincts take over.

Perhaps it was a shot. If so, it wasn't a thing of beauty. But Howard's attempt held up long enough for Len to corral the ball and tip it in with less than one second to play.

The basket gave Maryland a 51-50 victory in front of a delirious sellout crowd of 17,950 at Comcast Center.

The Terrapins (14-3, 2-2 in the ACC) held the conference's top scoring team to its lowest output of the year, which made up for the fact that they struggled more often than not to put up points of their own. N.C. State had its 10-game winning streak snapped thanks to Howard and Len's last-second connection, a connection that apparently wasn't even supposed to happen.

Len said the play was for senior guard Logan Aronhalt to get open off a high screen and take the shot. The play went south quickly, so Howard took matters into his own hands.

Three Wolfpack players gathered near the basket when Howard, who went 3 for 9 and scored seven points, went toward the hoop. Len used his 7-foot-1 frame to take it from there.

"He said it was a pass," Len said. "I don't know what it was. I just tipped it in."

N.C. State had to go the length of the court with less than a second left but Len got his hand on the ball, and the Wolfpack were unable to get a shot off in time.

Much to the delight of Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, even if some of his post-game words dripped with sarcasm.

"That's exactly how I drew it up," Turgeon said. "You have to be good and you have to be lucky. We were pretty lucky there at the end. ... Alex was in the right place at the right time."

N.C. State (14-3, 3-1) didn't lead until 4:35 remained, when senior guard Scott Wood sank a 3-pointer from the top of the arc and put the Wolfpack up 48-45. They went 1 for 6 from there, however, with the Terps' defense coming through in the clutch.

Len did as well, scoring the final six points of the game and finishing with a team-high 10 to go with six rebounds and a blocked shot.

The Wolfpack withstood the block - Len deflected a shot from junior standout C.J. Leslie - and went ahead 50-49 when junior guard Lorenzo Brown hit a short-range jumper with 1:43 to go. Maryland turned the ball over at the other end, but State missed two shots on its next possession and the Terps had life.

"We never quit ... we still weren't any good offensively," Turgeon said. "We just played with great toughness."

Brown had a game-high 17 points and Leslie, who came in averaging 16.2 points per game, finished with 13.

Maryland's 10-0 lead to start the game quickly disappeared when the Terps went cold from the floor. They missed 15 consecutive field goals while N.C. State crept back into the game, and a Wood 3-pointer cut the deficit to 14-13 with 7 minutes to play in the first half.

Howard scored four points after that by cutting to the basket, freshman Charles Mitchell added a putback after a blocked shot, and sophomore guard Nick Faust (six points, seven rebounds) scored with 47 seconds to go to give the Terps a 22-16 halftime lead.

They started strong in the second half, too, and led 42-32 with 9:34 to play before NC State went on a 15-3 run that ended with Wood's 3-pointer.

But Len was huge when it counted for the Terrapins, who evened their ACC record and sparked the students to storm the court in celebration.

"This is a great group we have," said freshman guard Seth Allen, who had nine points. "We really want to hang a banner up like everybody else. We're just going to keep working out butts off and keep playing hard."

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