RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State proved it can win without star scorer T.J. Warren.
Ralston Turner matched his career-high with 23 points, helping the Wolfpack rally to beat Maryland 65-56 on Monday despite playing without the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leading scorer.
Desmond Lee added 14 points for the Wolfpack (12-7, 2-4 ACC), who rallied from 11 down early in the second half to snap a three-game losing streak. N.C. State shot 57 percent after halftime, with Turner scoring 19 points and knocking down all five of his 3-pointers in the second half.
“Boy, our guys were determined,” coach Mark Gottfried said. “They were absolutely determined not to lay down.”
Turner was making his first start in two months with Warren sidelined due to a sprained left ankle suffered late in Saturday’s 35-point loss at Duke. Warren was averaging 22 points per game, but Turner and his Wolfpack teammates responded to the challenge against the Terrapins (11-8, 3-3).
“We all talked about before the game to just come together,” Turner said. “It didn’t really matter who did what. We just wanted to come together and play as one unit and get a win.”
It was clear how much this win meant for the Wolfpack, who had suffered two 30-point losses in a span of eight days. Gottfried — who was celebrating his 50th birthday — went down the Wolfpack bench giving his players celebratory high-fives and thumping their chests as the horn sounded on this one.
N.C. State had a big win at Notre Dame to build some confidence after a home loss to Pittsburgh in its league opener. But things had gone downhill since, starting with a 31-point home loss to Virginia followed by a 70-69 loss on a last-second basket at Wake Forest four days later.
Then came Saturday’s ugly loss to the Blue Devils, the Wolfpack’s worst loss in the series in a dozen years. That sent the Wolfpack into a three-game ACC homestand against Maryland, Georgia Tech and Florida State not far away from desperation mode.
“We needed something positive and we needed it fast,” Lee said. “Today we got it.”
Turner, an LSU transfer, made it happen with his best scoring effort in an N.C. State uniform. He started the season’s first four games but hadn’t started since, with his best scoring total being 21 points against Detroit on Dec. 14. He hadn’t scored more than 12 points in the past nine games.
He was 2-for-8 from the field and missed all five of his 3-point tries in the first half, but went 5-for-10 from behind the arc after halftime and finished with seven rebounds.
“He started making big shots for them and we couldn’t stop him,” said Charles Mitchell, who had a career-high 18 rebounds for the Terps. “He had some uncontested shots and contested shots and still made them. You knew it was going to be his night when he started making those shots.”
No one for Maryland could match Turner’s surge. Leading scorer Dez Wells finished with 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting, while Evan Smotrycz also had 10 for Maryland — which led 29-20 on Jake Layman’s 3-pointer just before halftime but shot just 31 percent for the game.
Maryland had lost two straight games by at least 20 points before last week’s home win against Notre Dame, then looked on its way to a second straight win when it took its biggest lead at 31-20 on Shaquille Cleare’s hook shot over Jordan Vandenberg 30 seconds into the second half.
But the Wolfpack answered with an 8-0 flurry, ending when Lee found a trailing Kyle Washington for big transition dunk that erased the Terps’ working margin.
Turner took over later on, hitting consecutive 3-pointers that put the Wolfpack ahead to stay at 48-46 with 8:50 left. He knocked down one over Wells with the Wolfpack protecting a one-point lead at the 4:35 mark, then hit his last one off a feed from Anthony “Cat” Barber to make it 62-55 with 2:40 to play.
Maryland was 9-0 when holding opponents to fewer than 70 points and 8-0 when leading at the half before Monday night.
“We got up 11 and we just stopped running back and quit guarding and then we gave them confidence,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought they were terrific on both ends in the second half.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)