Maryland, down 19 at halftime, rallies to beat N.C. State 85-82.
GREENSBORO, N.C. - With his team down 19 at halftime in the ACC tournament semifinals, Maryland coach Gary Williams could only think of one thing to say to his players.
"We talked about the tradition of the university," he said. "If you think about Maryland basketball over the years, there's been some great teams, some great players. Go back to Gene Shue, (Len) Elmore, (Tom) McMillen, (John) Lucas. Just great players. The last 15 years, we've had our share of great players."
In Terrapins lore, at least for one ACC tournament game, better add sophomore guard John Gilchrist.
Of his career-high 30 he scored 23 in the second half Saturday as the No. 6-seeded Terrapins rallied for a history-making 85-82 win against No. 2-seeded, but undermanned North Carolina State. The best second-half comeback in an tournament was Wake Forest erasing 12 points to beat Clemson in 1987.
The Terrapins (18-11), who as recently as two weeks ago looked like they might not make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993, have won four straight. That includes three ranked opponents, Wake Forest and N.C. State (20-9) twice.
But despite missing two injured starters, guard Scooter Sherrill (left foot muscle tear) and center Jordan Collins (left knee sprain), the Wolfpack sure seemed headed for its third straight ACC title game appearance.
Swingman Julius Hodge and forward Ilian Evtimov combined for 28 points on 8-for-9 shooting as the Wolfpack opened up 21-point lead before settling for a mere 45-26 edge at the half.
"The way we came out and played the first half was probably as well as we could execute," N.C. State coach Herb Sendek said. "Our guys knew it was a 40-minute game and we certainly didn't have any thoughts that the game was over at halftime. We knew Maryland has an outstanding team and would make a run."
The Terps relied on both a frenetic fullcourt press and Gilchrist, who had narrowed his college choices to Maryland and the school his parents desperately wanted him to attend, N.C. State.
"For my parents, it was pretty much a done deal," he said. "I was going there. I just had a feeling in my heart since I went to the Maryland basketball camp and won the MVP when I was 10 years old. Coach Williams gave me a trophy, looked me in the eye and said, "Thanks for coming out. Good job.' I just had this idea that I was going to make it to the University of Maryland."
"Don't tell John this, but we give every kid a trophy," said Williams before adding that he could see Gilchrist, at that age a little guy who could handle the ball, becoming something special.
His fourth 3-pointer of the half, a bank shot from the left wing in front of his bench, gave the Terps the lead for good at 66-65 with 7:34 left. His final line: 11-of-13 shooting, 5-of-7 from 3-point range, 3-of-3 from the line, four rebounds, seven assists, one turnover and four steals.
"When your back's against the wall and you know it's do-or-die time, that's what shows the heart and character of your team," Gilchrist said. "Going through the rough turbulence we had with this season, it really helped us out as a team to deal with situations like that. I just took it upon myself. I said, "I'm going to do it for the team' because I had a great opportunity to come here and play for a legendary coach and a legendary program."
BUCS QB HONORED: He played just two seasons of basketball at Florida State and is more renowned for his NFL feats, but former Seminole star and Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson was one of nine ACC "legends" honored.
"I was a basketball junkie growing up as a kid," a beaming Johnson said. "I really wanted to go to Georgia Tech, but Bobby Cremins signed Dennis Scott. He said, "I think you might have a brighter future in a different sport.' And he was right. But I went to Florida State and was honored by Florida State and the ACC to be a part of this."
The others recognized, one from each of the ACC schools, were Duke coach Vic Bubas, Clemson's Vincent Hamilton, Georgia Tech's Tom Hammonds, Maryland's Adrian Branch, North Carolina's Lennie Rosenbluth, North Carolina State's Chris Corchiani, Virginia's Bryan Stith and Wake Forest's Jack Murdock.
SECURITY ALERT: In the aftermath of an off-duty, out-of-state law enforcement officer accidentally shooting himself during the second half of the Maryland-Wake Forest quarterfinal game Friday night, Greensboro officials stepped up security.
There were a noticeable increase in the number of uniformed police officers and security checked fans with wands, something that didn't occur Friday and created long lines an hour before the first semifinal.
"We apologize for any inconvenience that these measures may cause, however, the safety of our patrons and student-athletes is of the utmost security," officials from the Greensboro Coliseum Complex said in a statement.