Jan 16, 2013; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins center Alex Len (25) is defended by North Carolina State Wolfpack forward C.J. Leslie (5) as he drives to the basket at the Comcast Center. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
By the end of the game, #Lensanity (or rather, Alex Len) was trending on Twitter.
The Maryland Terrapins took down #14 North Carolina State in dramatic fashion on a last second lob to Alex Len from Pe’Shon Howard, and in doing so secured their first big victory of the season, 51-50. Len, who up to that point only had eight points and six rebounds, came up huge offensively when it mattered the most. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a Ukranian Wall the entire night on defense.
Len gave the highly touted NC State front court fits all night, and held star forward CJ Leslie to a meager 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting. In their previous matchup last year, Leslie had 25 points against Len, but this time around was much different. The entire Maryland front court was phenomenal with help defense all night, clogging the paint and refusing to give NC State any clean looks all night. Coming into the game, the Wolfpack had the best field goal percentage in the nation. By the end of the game, not a single NC State player was even shooting 50% from the floor.
Though the outcome of the game was decided in the last second, the Terrapins held the lead for the vast majority of this game. Heading into halftime, Maryland held a 22-16 lead, thanks to forcing the Wolfpack to hit only 7-of-25 shots. When Alex Len, James Padgett, and Shaquille Cleare were creating a virtual brick wall in the paint, the Wolfpack simply couldn’t hit enough jumpers to catch the Terrapins (who weren’t exactly setting the world on fire offensively.)
With about ten minutes to play, and the Terrapins with a 42-32 lead, NC State began to mount their comeback. Lorenzo Brown and Scott Wood led the rally, scoring 13 of the Wolfpack’s final 15 points on a few three pointers and some nice layups. A Scott Wood three pointer gave the Wolfpack a 48-45 lead with about 4:30 to play, while the Terrapins only scored two points over a five minute span. Things certainly seemed to swing in NC State’s favor, until Len took over.
Len scored the Terrapins final six points, including the incredible “lob” from Pe’Shon Howard in the final seconds. That wasn’t the duo’s only connection on the night, as Howard also found him for a big jam to give the Terps a 49-48 lead with only two minutes to play. Howard finished the game with seven points, five rebounds, and two steals. More importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over once.
North Carolina State got some solid guard play from Lorenzo Brown, who finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists on the night. His play kept the Wolfpack in the game despite never having the lead until late, but it wasn’t enough to lead them to victory. Brown and Leslie were the only players in double figures.
For the Terrapins, it was even less than that. Len was the only person to hit the double digit mark in points, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a team effort. The Terrapins starters had 37 of their 51 points, with Seth Allen and Shaquille Cleare putting in 9 and 8 points respectively. Cleare had some very solid play down low in his ACC starting debut, managing to grab five boards as well, while also staying out of foul trouble. Allen failed to have an effective shooting night, but he was active all night and his slashing ability got the defense on their heels.
The Terrapins can’t get too excited, as they travel to Chapel Hill Saturday to take on another Tobacco Road foe in North Carolina. Maryland would be wise to take a page out of North Carolina State’s notebook and not get overly excited about pulling off an upset victory such as this. Regardless, it’s safe to say the Terrapins defense has let them right the ship.
Take that, Debbie Yow.