COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- On Senior Day, Maryland's trio of Mike Jones, D.J. Strawberry and Ekene Ibekwe wanted to put an emphasis on finishing strong and heading into the postseason on a high note.
With a 79-59 win over North Carolina State on Saturday, the Terrapins (No. 24 AP)
did just that -- winning their seventh straight game to end the season and clinch fifth place in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.Maryland (24-7, 10-6) could finish in fourth place and earn a first-round bye in the ACC tournament, if Duke beats North Carolina on Sunday.More importantly, though, Maryland continued to build on its late-season momentum.Jones led the Terps with 21 points, while Strawberry added 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. Ibekwe had 14 points and 12 rebounds for his seventh double double of the season and the 13th of his career.Junior James Gist added 10 points and nine rebounds."I wanted us to go out with a bang personally and for the team," Jones said. "Having 24 wins is a great way to end the regular season.""It was big, a great win, definitely a big win for the team," Jones added. "It was great to come out and play as well as we did. Now we know after this game we have more games to go. We have to continue playing the way we've been playing."Leading by six with less than 10 minutes to play, Maryland outscored N.C. State 20-7 over the next 5 1/2 minutes. During that stretch, Maryland scored on 10 straight possessions, hitting nine baskets and adding two free throws.The Terps trailed in the opening minutes of the game, before a 9-2 run gave the Terps an 11-8 lead.Maryland led 35-29 at the half and stretched the lead to 49-36, but N.C. State battled back until the decisive run that stretched the lead from six points to 20."We knew it was going to be an emotional day and we were going to have to come out and be real focused," Strawberry said. "We started clicking late in the game, thankfully, and had a good game."Brandon Costner led N.C. State with 20 points and Gavin Grant added 15 points. The Wolfpack shot just 37.7 percent from the floor and was out-rebounded by Maryland 47-31. The Terps also blocked nine shots, with Ibekwe getting four and Gist three.The Wolfpack (15-14, 5-11) lost for the sixth time in its past eight games and fifth straight time on the road. They finished 10th in the league. It was the worst conference record for the Wolfpack since it went 5-11 in the 2000-2001 season."We played 30 solid minutes of pretty good basketball against a very good team, a very hot team," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. "They knew the longer we kept that thing close, the better the chance that we could take one. They started doing all the small things that they knew they had to do to get a win."Maryland coach Gary Williams said he was happy for his seniors, who heard a lot of criticism after the team's 3-6 start in conference play."It would have been very easy to quit at some point during this year," Williams said. "They were getting compared to teams that went further. That is a tough thing to live with. It's a great feeling to coach these guys. It has been fun coaching these guys and hopefully we will have a lot more games to play."The win completed a sweep of the four North Carolina teams in the conference for the first time since 1932-33, with a 6-0 mark. That year, they played only North Carolina and Duke.