Thomas, No. 6 Maryland women beat NC State 65-50
(AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker)
By JOEDY McCREARY
AP Sports Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Maryland kept feeding the ball to Alyssa Thomas in the second half, and she kept scoring. Things clicked so well that coach Brenda Frese wasn't about to try anything else.
Thomas scored 22 of her 24 points in the second half and added a career-high 17 rebounds in the sixth-ranked Terrapins' 65-50 win over North Carolina State on Sunday.
"She just got into a really good groove," Frese said. "So, once we saw the groove she was in, we kept play-calling her direction."
Thomas finished two points shy of her scoring high - after accepting a halftime challenge from her coach - to help the Terrapins (25-4, 12-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) win their fourth straight. They clinched the No. 3 seed in the league tournament that starts Thursday in Greensboro.
"Coach Frese challenged us at halftime and told us we were playing scared and that we didn't come to play," Thomas said. "I kind of took that to heart a little bit, and came out there and tried to hit the glass hard."
Laurin Mincy added 12 points for Maryland. The Terps never trailed, overcame 18 turnovers and used a late 17-5 run to pull away and claim their seventh win in eight tries against the Wolfpack (16-14, 5-11).
The Terrapins, the league's best rebounding team, built a 55-36 advantage on the boards - much of that coming after weathering some early foul trouble among their post players.
"When we were able to get our bigs back in and have an inside-outside game, we were able to get it going in the second half," Frese said.
Thomas - who averages 16.7 points - was the only Maryland player to score during a 10 1/2-minute stretch of that half, reeling off 16 consecutive points for her team.
"She couldn't miss," Frese said.
N.C. State made it a three-point game three times in the second half, the last when Marissa Kastanek's drive across the lane pulled the Wolfpack within 46-43 with just under 10 minutes left.
But while N.C. State managed just two field goals the rest of the way, Thomas carried the Terrapins.
She knocked down a jumper through contact from Lakeesa Daniel with 8:57 left to spark a run of eight straight points during the decisive spurt. Kim Rodgers' 3 from the corner with 7 1/2 minutes to play stretched it back out to double figures at 54-43, and Mincy's free throw with 3:15 left made it 63-48.
No N.C. State player reached double figures, with leading scorer Kastanek - who averages 13 points - finishing with nine on 4-of-14 shooting. Senior Bonae Holston, who averages 12.4 points, had six on 3-of-14 shooting in her final game at Reynolds Coliseum.
"Sometimes, we have to take tough shots and it's hard when somebody has the length that they do, to be able to shoot over them, shoot with a lot of contact," N.C. State coach Kellie Harper said. "You've got to be able to make tough shots to score with Maryland."
The Wolfpack, who have lost four of five, claimed the No. 9 seed in the league tournament.
This one opened up with some wild swings, with the Terrapins racing out to a 15-1 lead against a senior-day starting lineup that included three Wolfpack players who don't usually start.
Once most of the regulars checked in, N.C. State tightened things back up with a 17-3 run capped by Kastanek's 3-pointer that pulled the Wolfpack within 21-20 with 6:50 before the break.
N.C. State didn't hit another basket until Erica Donovan's baseline drive with 42 seconds left ended the Wolfpack's second 5-minute field goal drought of the half.
Updated February 26, 2012