ATLANTA — Maryland guards Eric Hayes and Greivis Vasquez combined for 38 points to help end NC State's chances of making a run in the ACC Tournament at the Georgia Dome on Thursday.
The loss marks the second straight for the Pack in the first round of the ACC Tournament. NC State fell to Miami in the first round in 2008. The Wolfpack close out the season 16-14 overall, and hope to earn a berth in some sort of postseason tournament.
Maryland improved to 19-12 overall and will play Wake Forest at 7 p.m. Friday.
NC State entered the game against Maryland looking to continue its solid play, which they displayed through much of the second half of the ACC regular season. Despite being a No. 10 seed and finishing 6-10 in conference play, the Wolfpack had to feel like it had a great opportunity to upset the No. 7-seeded Terrapins and move on to Friday's action.
Early on it looked as if State would do just that. The Pack began the game well, building a five-point lead on Maryland by the first media timeout, and extended that lead to 13 midway through the first half.
Freshman wing C.J. Williams put State up 20-8 when he hit a three-pointer from the right wing with just under 10 minutes to play, and classmate Julius Mays then added a free throw to give State its largest lead of the game.
That is when Maryland began to answer the bell and make its run to close out the first 20 minutes. Junior guard Hayes hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to pull the Terps within nine with 7:28 left in the half.
NC State scored coming out of the timeout, but Hayes hit a third three on Maryland's next possession. Another three from Cliff Tucker made the score 25-24. The 13-point lead, and NC State's momentum, had disappeared. The game would be tied at halftime at 29.
Mays led State with seven points during the first half in his first action since playing a minute against Georgia Tech on Feb. 14. Mays created his shot a couple of times and made tough shots in the lane. Sophomore power forward Tracy Smith only scored two points in the first half but collected five rebounds, four of which came on the offensive end. Smith finished the night with just four points on six shot attempts and played only 23 minutes.
NC State finished the first half going 12 of 26 from the field and 2 of 9 from 3-point range. Maryland was able to keep pace with NC State by dominating the offensive glass. The Terps collected nine offensive rebounds during the first half and scored nine points off of the extra chances.
Redshirt junior forward Brandon Costner, who sat out all but three minutes of the first half because of two early fouls, opened the second half scoring for the Pack when he hit a three-pointer from the left wing to put the Wolfpack up 32-31.
Maryland went up by five at the 16-minute mark when Hayes nailed his fourth 3-pointer. Whatever momentum NC State had from the first half dissipated.
Costner, who finished with five points, picked up his third foul with a little more than 14 minutes remaining, forcing Lowe to go to his bench and bring in Williams. The freshman answered the bell, hitting a contested jumper to pull State within one at 43-42 before the second media timeout.
Junior forward Dennis Horner gave State the lead back when he hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired, putting the Pack up 45-43. The lead was short-lived thanks to Maryland center Dave Neal hitting a 3-pointer of his own on the Terps' next possession.
Mays put the Pack up 59-58 with 4:50 to go after hitting a mid-range jumper from the top of the key. Mays led NC State in scoring with 18 points.
Despite the best efforts of Mays and senior Ben McCauley, who scored 14 points, NCSU could not gain control.
Maryland junior point guard Vasquez drained a 3-pointer with 2:58 to play to give the Terrapins' a four-point lead. Vasquez finished with 17 points and 10 assists and Hayes scored a game-high 21 points, a new career-high for Hayes.