Pe’Shon Howard corralled the ball at the top of the key and drove to his left. With three defenders in his face and just seconds left on the clock, Howard tossed up a shot that seemed destined for nothing but air as it drifted toward the basket.
Alex Len, pictured here against Virginia Tech, grabbed a miss from Pe'Shon Howard and scored with 0.9 seconds remaining to give Maryland a 51-50 win over No. 14 NC State.
Then Alex Len entered the picture.
Len grabbed Howard’s miss and threw the ball through the hoop on a putback with 0.9 seconds left in regulation, giving Maryland a 51-50 win over No. 14 NC State and sending frenzied students onto the court while chanting “Let’s Go Maryland.”
After losing two prior games on the final possession – Kentucky and Florida State – the Terps finally tasted victory in a close game thanks to Len’s heroics.
“That’s exactly how I drew it up,” coach Mark Turgeon said with a laugh. “You have to be good and you have to be lucky. We were pretty lucky there at the end to get the win. Pe’Shon drove the ball. Kentucky we didn’t drive it. Florida State we didn’t drive it. Tonight we drove it, and it freed us to the boards.”
“[Howard] said it wasn’t a miss. He said it was a pass,” added Len, who finished with a team-high 10 points and six rebounds. “The play was for Logan [Aronhalt], but it ended up with Pe’Shon driving. He said he was passing. I don’t know what it was. I just tipped it in … Coach told me to go get it, so I was just trying to crash the glass.”
Riding a two-game losing streak in ACC play, Maryland needed a win against a signature opponent.
It might not have been the prettiest 40 minutes of basketball, but the Terps got exactly that Wednesday night by topping the Wolfpack in front of 17,950 fans inside Comcast Center. It was Maryland’s second sellout of the season.
The win over NC State, which was coming off an upset victory of its own against then-No. 1 Duke, was the best win for Maryland since Turgeon took over as coach. It was also the Terps first win against a ranked opponent since March 3, 2010, when they topped Duke on Greivis Vasquez, Landon Milbourne and Eric Hayes’ senior night. Since that game the Terps had lost 17 consecutive games against ranked opponents.
“We haven’t won a big game since Greivis was here. I didn’t come here to be mediocre. I don’t think the players came here to be mediocre,” Turgeon said. “I asked them that before the game. Why’d you come here? I came here to be a part of something that’s much bigger than myself. Maryland basketball. Tremendous tradition. Great storied program. I came here to do great things. We haven’t done a lot of great things since I’ve been here. This is one great thing. Hopefully it leads to many other things and help us in different areas down the road.”
The Terps got off to a strong start against the Wolfpack, displaying a show of emotion and offensive prowess that had been noticeably absent their previous three halves of action. With Nick Faust running the point, Seth Allen and Dez Wells on the wing, Len at the four and Shaquille Cleare at the five, the Terps burst out to a 10-0 start, hitting four of their first five shots from the floor.
Things quickly went downhill, though, and Maryland’s offense became stagnant. After the 10-0 run, the Terps didn’t make a shot from the floor for nearly 11 minutes and missed 16 straight shots. During the stretch, NC State whittled its deficit down to three, 16-13.
Maryland did turn things around slightly before the end of the half and entered the break nursing a 22-16 lead, while shooting 9-for-30 from the floor and 0-for-6 from 3-point range.
“In the end it’s a win against a really good team,” Turgeon said. “This is where we are right now. I don’t know what the problem is offensively. I thought we executed better tonight. I thought we were much more patient. We just couldn’t finish, and we’re not getting to the foul line.”
The second half boasted a similar feel, and a 12-3 run by NC State gave the Wolfpack its first lead of the game, 48-45, with 4:35 left in regulation. After Scott Wood’s 3-pointer to give them the lead, though, the Wolfpack would only score two more points.
Trailing 50-49, the Terps put forth back-to-back strong defensive possessions, stopping NC State from scoring and regaining possession with 12.3 seconds left. A foul on Lorenzo Brown, who led all scorers with 17 points, stopped the clock at 5.2 seconds.
That’s when Howard drove left and Len put the final touch on a one-point Maryland victory.
“Coach wanted us to come out and make a statement,” Faust said. “This could be a changing game for us this season. It’s a big win for us. This will help us a lot. We beat them, but we feel we could have played better. It’s a great thing for our confidence and our freshmen. It’s going to get everyone working hard and believing in ourselves.”