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March 9, 2009NC State's loss to Maryland on March 1 left a sour taste in the mouth's of the Wolfpack players and coaches.
The disappointing feeling wasn't in that the Wolfpack lost 71-60 to the Terrapins, but how they lost the game. NC State didn't have a lot of energy or spark against Maryland and struggled at times attacking the Terrapins zone defense.
Maryland junior point guard Greivis Vasquez torched NC State for a game-high 33 points, going 13 of 23 from the field and 4 of 8 from three-point land, including a meaningless three-pointer at the buzzer, that showed poor basketball etiquette.
As fate would have it, N?State will get a chance to redeem itself on a bigger stage against Maryland. The Wolfpack play the Terrapins at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga., on ESPN2.
"We have a tough matchup and we just played them not long ago, and they beat us," NC State coach Sidney Lowe said. "We are looking to bounce back. Everything is 0-0 now.
"We'll have to be solid on those guys. The last game it was Vasquez, and it could probably be Vasquez again. You know he'll play well."
Senior wing Courtney Fells had the defensive duties against Vasquez in the first matchup, but is coming off an injured groin suffered against Boston College on March 4. He didn't play in the regular season finale against Miami on Saturday, but Lowe expects him to play Thursday.
"He'll be ready to play," Lowe said. "I think the rest that he received from the Miami game, and obviously yesterday, so we'll see what he can do in practice. I anticipate him being ready to play. If he's 100 percent, I don't know, but he'll definitely play.
"Having Courtney back in there, and a healthy Courtney Fells, it certainly should help us a great deal."
NC State could have point guard Javier Gonzalez guard Vasquez in the rematch. Gonzalez, who is from Puerto Rico, might be smaller than Vasquez, who is from Venezuela, but his feistiness gave Vasquez trouble late in the game when Lowe made the switch.
"We'll have to be tough defensively," Lowe said. "We have to show that we can handle this type of situation of playing against a team with great energy."
The Wolfpack struggled from the perimeter, shooting 5 of 19 from three-point range, compared to shooting 62.3 percent on two-pointers (17 of 27) against the Terrapins. Sophomore power forward Tracy Smith scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 34 minutes of action.
Lowe himself was once a part of a miracle team that won the ACC Tournament in 1983. The Wolfpack will need a duplicate feat to reach the NCAA Tournament, and at least a win or two to ensure a spot in the NIT.
"It's a new season," Lowe said. "It presents opportunities for you as a team. I obviously experienced that as a senior here in getting to the tournament. It's a great opportunity for a team that is on the bubble or fighting for something to salvage the season. We'll have to try and do that again this year. It is certainly feasible and possible, but we'll have to try and do it one game at a time."