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'Anything can happen' as Wolfpack stuns Terps

N.C. State takes out the top seed and reaches the final, where it plays Duke.

By BRIAN LANDMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 10, 2002

N.C. State takes out the top seed and reaches the final, where it plays Duke.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With his team clinging to the lead in the final minutes Saturday, North Carolina State freshman Julius Hodge initially believed Maryland fans were trying to fool him.

"I heard the crowd say, 'Two seconds,"' he said.

He didn't buy it and stole a glance at the 35-second shot clock.

"When I looked at the rim," Hodge said, "I saw it was one second, so I just thought, 'Why don't I throw it up? This is March madness. Anything can happen, and I happened to make a big-time shot."

Dribbling to his left, the right-hander pulled up and swished a 3-pointer that helped the No. 4-seeded Wolfpack stun the top-seeded and No.2-ranked Terrapins 86-82 in the ACC tournament semifinals.

The Wolfpack (22-9), who last beat a Top 5 team in February 1998 (No.2 North Carolina), plays second-seeded and No.3-ranked Duke in today's final.

The Blue Devils have won the past three tournament titles and seek an unprecedented fourth. N.C. State last won in 1987.

Meanwhile, the Terrapins (26-4) saw their 13-game win streak end, but they still figure to receive the No.1 seed in the NCAA Tournament's East Region.

"I think we deserve it," senior guard Juan Dixon said.

The Terps were 15-1 in the league, including two victories against N.C. State. But this wasn't the same Wolfpack team.

"We knew going into today that N.C. State was shooting the ball well from the perimeter and we had to shut them down," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We didn't do a great job of that."

The Wolfpack, who made 13 of 18 3-pointers Friday against Virginia, made 11 of 27. That included Hodges' lone 3 with 1:17 left to push his team's lead to 84-78.

"I wanted to make sure I didn't foul," Maryland junior guard Drew Nicholas said. "I made sure when I jumped, I kind of flew to the side of him; out of his way. He hit a big shot for them.

"Given the same situation over again, I don't know if he would hit that. But he made it today."

Just like you drew it up, right Coach?

Well, uh.

"He's made big baskets and big plays for us all season, and obviously, that's not part of our offense," N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said.

"But we'll take it."

As Hodge raced down the court, he pointed to ESPN analyst Dick Vitale.

A premature celebration.

The Wolfpack didn't seal the victory until Anthony Grundy ended the team's uncharacteristic free-throw shooting woes by hitting the second of two with 2.3 seconds left.

N.C. State, the league's best team at the line during the regular season (75 percent), had missed eight of 11 in the final few minutes.

"There were a lot of things going through my mind, but I kind of blanked it out and pictured being on a playground back home," said Grundy, who had a game-high 24 points. "I'm always a guy who likes to keep people on the edge of their seats, and I want Coach on the edge of his seat as well. It was a big shot; probably one of the biggest of my career."

NO. 3 DUKE 79, WAKE FOREST 64: After all but squandering a 20-point first-half lead, the Blue Devils (28-3) needed a hobbling Jason Williams to score 10 in the final minutes to hold off third-seeded Wake Forest.

"I tried to go up for a rebound, and I caught a hard knee to the hip," Williams said. "The next play again, I found myself going up for a rebound and caught another hit to the hip.

"The next play, I found myself driving and getting knocked on the floor and falling down on my hip."

It was a physical game, and the most physical player on the floor dominated: Duke center Carlos Boozer. He had 17 points and 16 rebounds and played the final 12:57 without picking up his fourth foul.

"I thought the game could have gotten away from us if we didn't have him in," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who had a scare off the court when his son-in-law, Steve Frasher, fainted during the game and was taken to Duke Hospital for precautionary tests.

It didn't as Williams, Boozer, sophomore guard Chris Duhon and freshman guard Daniel Ewing sparked a decisive 23-14 run after the Demon Deacons (20-12) climbed to within 51-50.

"That spurt in the second half just buried us," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said. "Once we got down, we couldn't come back from it."

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