The seventh-seeded Terrapins' 74-69 victory over North Carolina State not only secured their goal of hanging around Atlanta another day - they face second seed Wake Forest tonight - but it also allowed them to cling to their season-long hopes of advancing to the NCAA tournament. One more win might do it.
"I'm really excited I get another chance to play tomorrow," said junior guard Greivis Vasquez, whose Terps had been eliminated in this tournament's first round the previous two seasons.
Vasquez, who scored 33 points against the Wolfpack in the teams' first meeting March 1, had 17 last night. But it was his passing to Eric Hayes - who had five three-pointers - and to other Terps that sparked last night's win.
Time after time, the Wolfpack defense converged on Vasquez when he drove into the lane. Vasquez used the overplay to Maryland's advantage, recording 10 assists.
"Coach [Gary] Williams and [assistant coach] Rob Ehsan told me that - to penetrate and kick it out," said Vasquez, who could be playing in his last ACC tournament because he is weighing entering the NBA draft.
Hayes was one of the beneficiaries of Vasquez's assists.
Hayes, a longtime starter who has primarily been a reserve since late January, had a career-high 21 points, including six free throws, to help the seal the win.
"I wanted to be aggressive coming in," Hayes said. "Greivis did a great job of finding me whenever I was open."
The fundamentally sound Hayes, the son of a high school coach, was replaced in the starting lineup by Sean Mosley on Jan. 31 against Miami. Hayes scored eight points in that game and has usually been on the floor at critical junctures since.
Williams said Hayes' threes - he had three before halftime - were critical to settling down the Terps after Maryland fell behind. The Terps trailed 21-8 after N.C. State ran off 11 straight points.
Hayes followed with two threes - the second cut the Wolfpack advantage to 23-14. Hayes then hit an additional three to begin a 14-0 Maryland run that put the Terps ahead 28-25.
"I'm not sure we ever recover ... if Eric isn't in that game," Williams said. "Sometimes you make one or two shots and everyone [on your team] relaxes."
Like many teams, the Wolfpack gave Maryland trouble with its size. N.C. State went 6 feet 9, 6-8, 6-9 across its front line to begin the game. Maryland's biggest player was 6-7, and the Terps, as usual, started three guards.
Despite its size advantage, N.C. State was outscored 26-24 in the paint and took 27 three-point attempts, making eight.
The Terps now get a rematch against Wake, an even larger team than N.C. State. The Demon Deacons repeatedly got second and third shots in beating Maryland, 65-63, on March 3.
Asked what the key will be, Maryland forward Landon Milbourne replied simply, "Get more rebounds."
PLAY IT AGAIN
Keys to the game
Eric Hayes settled Maryland down with three-pointers in a game the Terps once trailed 21-8. Then he hit clutch foul shots at the end.
Did you notice
* North Carolina State's Tracy Smith, who shot 8-for-12 in the teams' first meeting, took only six shots and finished with four points.
* Gregory had a big block on what looked like a certain Wolfpack layup in the first half.
Left to ponder
Can the Terps muster the energy
needed to overcome Wake Forest's
ACC QUARTERFINAL MARYLAND (19-12) VS. NO. 8 WAKE FOREST (24-5) Tonight, 7, Atlanta TV: Chs. 54, 20 Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM