NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Drew Nicholas wasn't supposed to have
the ball. Good thing the intended play didn't work out.
Nicholas dribbled nearly the length of the court and swished a
desperation 3-pointer as the horn sounded, giving defending
national champion Maryland an improbable 75-73 victory over North
Carolina-Wilmington at the NCAA South Regional on Friday night.
The sixth-seeded Terrapins (20-9) wanted Steve Blake to have the
ball on the final play, but UNC-Wilmington's swarming defense kept
him from getting it.
So Nicholas got the inbounds pass and took off up the right side
of the court. With less than a second remaining, he managed to
launch a fallaway 3 off his back foot with Anthony Terrell right in
"I took the ball as far as I could and tried to make something
happen," Nicholas said. "I know the shot probably didn't look the
prettiest, but it went in. I really couldn't believe it when it
Neither could UNC-Wilmington coach Brad Brownell, who collapsed
to the court in disbelief.
"We did everything we could," he said. "Give credit to Drew
Nicholas. He made the game winner."
Aaron Coombs sank two free throws with 5 seconds left, giving
the 11th-seeded Seahawks a 73-72 lead and putting them in position
to pull off a tourney surprise for the second year in a row.
Instead, Maryland avoided becoming the first defending champion
since UCLA in 1996 to get knocked out in the first round.
After Nicholas' shot, several Maryland players raced off the
court in delirium, while the Seahawks stood around in a daze.
The officials called everyone back to look at the video replay.
It clearly showed that Nicholas got the shot off with a 0.5 seconds
to spare, giving Maryland a chance to celebrate again.
UNC-Wilmington freshman John Goldsberry nearly stole the show.
He set a tournament record by going 8-of-8 from outside the 3-point
arc, finishing with a career-high 26 points. He broke the 7-of-7
mark set by Florida State's Sam Cassell in 1993.
Goldsberry stepped up when Brett Blizzard, the Seahawks' leading
scorer, struggled most of the night.
"I'd rather just pass the ball, to tell you the truth,"
Goldsberry said. "I had some open looks and fortunately they were
Nicholas scored 22 points, including 5-of-8 shooting from
outside the arc, as the Terrapins advanced to meet third-seeded
Xavier on Sunday in the second round.
A year ago, UNC-Wilmington (24-7) opened with a 93-89 overtime
victory against fourth-seeded Southern California. The Seahawks had
another favored team on the ropes, but couldn't finish the job this
"It is hard to go out on a last-second shot," Goldsberry said.
"You'd almost rather get blown out."
Maryland lost four starters from the team that beat Indiana for
the national title 11½ months ago in Atlanta.
For that reason, coach Gary Williams considered it an
achievement that his team fought through an up-and-down season to
make its 10th straight tournament appearance.
Still, the Terps didn't want their title reign to end in the
first round. They consider themselves the champion until someone
takes it away.
The Seahawks almost did. Led by Goldsberry and Blizzard, who
came on late to make four 3s, the Colonial Athletic Association
champion took more shots from outside the arc (29) than inside
(26), connecting on 13 of the long-range attempts.
But Joel Justus couldn't hit a 3-pointer, and Ryan Randle made a
couple of free throws with 41 seconds remaining. Justus squandered
another chance with a one-and-one, missing the front end. Blake
made the Seahawks pay by nailing a 3 from the corner with 20
seconds left, putting Maryland ahead 72-71.
Then it was left to Nicholas, who made his second game-winning
shot in three weeks. On March 2, he hit an even longer 3-pointer
with 1.5 seconds left to beat North Carolina State.
The Seahawks played without guard Tim Burnette, their
third-leading scorer at 11 points a game. He was suspended
indefinitely for violating team rules.
Maryland encountered a less-serious bit of adversity -- three
white uniforms were stolen from the team's downtown hotel earlier
in the day.
The Seahawks, who were scheduled to wear their road uniforms as
the lower-seeded team, agreed to switch to home white so Maryland
could wear their red outfits.