RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- D.J. Strawberry scored 18 points -- including six during a decisive second-half run -- to help Maryland beat North Carolina State 85-70 on Wednesday night.
Greivis Vasquez added 15 points for the Terrapins (19-7, 5-6 Atlantic Coast Conference), who needed this win in pursuit of an NCAA tournament bid. Maryland has won three of four games but is hovering in the lower half of the league standings.Brandon Costner scored 19 points for the Wolfpack (13-11, 3-8), who lost its third straight game since a surprising upset of North Carolina.The Terrapins, who are trying to end a two-year NCAA tournament drought, were coming off a 72-60 home win against Duke that pulled them closer to .500 in the ACC -- though the Terrapins will have a tough finish to the regular season. They travel to Clemson on Sunday, then return home to play Florida State and North Carolina before going to Duke. They close at home with N.C. State on March 3.For now, though, Maryland is hoping that it's on the right path.Against the Wolfpack, that meant leading throughout the first half then gradually pulling away with a 25-11 run after N.C. State had fought back to tie it. The Terrapins led by as many as 16 points late to snap the Wolfpack's three-game winning streak in the series.The Wolfpack -- picked to finish last in the league in the preseason -- looked like it had an outside chance to contend for an NCAA tournament bid after consecutive upsets of Virginia Tech and North Carolina. But N.C. State followed with losses at Georgia Tech and Miami, crippling any fleeting hope the Wolfpack had at reaching the NCAAs for a sixth straight year.The Terrapins made things worse behind Strawberry, Vasquez and James Gist, who scored six points to match Strawberry during the decisive second-half run.Gist put the Terps ahead to stay at 46-44 with a layup off a feed from Eric Hayes with 16:40 left, then followed with an inside score from Ekene Ibekwe on the next possession.Engin Atsur answered with a 3-pointer, but the Wolfpack came up empty on a key possession that turned momentum completely in Maryland's favor. With the Terrapins leading 51-47, Ben McCauley's dunk attempt off an offensive rebound rimmed out, and Gist knocked down a 3 at the other end to give the Terrapins a seven-point lead.The margin grew steadily the rest of the way, with Will Bowers closing the spurt with a stickback that made it 69-55 with 7:20 left.The Terrapins scored the game's first seven points and led by as many as eight points early on, but Maryland missed 13 of 14 shots at one point -- including five of its first six free throws -- that could have given the Terrapins an even bigger lead.The Wolfpack hung around, closing the gap to 39-37 at halftime on a 3-pointer from Dennis Horner just before the horn before tying it at 44 on a 3 from Gavin Grant with 17:02 left.