Thursday, March 10, 2011

Terps Top Wolfpack, Lowe’s Future Uncertain

MARYLAND 75, N.C. STATE 67 – Jordan had another double-double – 16 points and 13 rebounds –  to help Maryland beat North Carolina State on Thursday night in the first round of the ACC tournament.

Dino Gregory added 11 points for the seventh-seeded Terrapins (19-13), who snapped a three-game losing streak and led the entire night. Maryland led by 17 points in the first half and never let the 10th-seeded Wolfpack (15-16) get closer than six in the second half, earning a matchup with fifth-ranked Duke in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Tracy Smith had 14 points to lead N.C. State, which had a miserable shooting performance in what could be the final game for fifth-year Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe. N.C. State shot 34 percent, including 2-for-17 from 3-point range, and couldn’t pull off the same kind of magic they had in a pair of deep ACC tournament runs under Lowe.

The Terrapins needed this win considering how they had likely fumbled away their NCAA tournament at-large chances by closing the regular season with three straight losses, two of which coming to lower-seeded Miami and Virginia. But the Terrapins shot 45 percent while playing from ahead all night against the Wolfpack.

Lowe entered with an 86-77 overall record while going just 25-55 in ACC play. He also hasn’t made the NCAA tournament after inheriting a program coming off five straight NCAA trips. There have been a handful of exciting moments, including a surprise run to the ACC tournament final in his first season and a trip to the ACC semifinals last year.

N.C. State athletics director Debbie Yow has said there would be no decisions on Lowe’s future until after the season is complete. Now, barring an unexpected invitation to the NIT on Sunday night, that’s exactly where things stand.

In some ways, this game was a metaphor for N.C. State’s entire season. Picked to finish fourth in the ACC, N.C. State closed with four losses in five games to fall to the No. 10 seed here, then couldn’t take advantage of repeated opportunities to get back in the game when Maryland wavered.

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