NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Drew Nicholas drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer as sixth-seeded Maryland opened defense of its NCAA championship with a 75-73 victory over No. 11 North Carolina-Wilmington in the first round of the South Region.
Maryland (20-9) trailed for most of the final five minutes and fell behind, 73-72, when Aaron Coombs - a 42 percent free-throw shooter - made two foul shots with five seconds remaining.
North Carolina-Wilmington used its final timeout, enabling the defending champions to set up a final play. Nicholas took the inbounds pass and dribbled the length of the court, pulling up on the right wing and nailing his fifth 3-pointer of the game.
"I just took it as far as I could and I just tried to make something happen," Nicholas said. "I know the shot didn't look like the prettiest. It went in and I really couldn't believe that it went down."
"I was praying, 'Please let it go in, please let it go in,'" teammate Steve Blake added. "It seemed like that shot was in the air forever."
Nicholas, who backed up Juan Dixon on last season's title team, kept on running into the locker room but had to be coaxed back while officials reviewed videotapes to see if his shot beat the buzzer.
Nicholas scored 22 points and Ryan Randle added 15 and 16 rebounds for the Terrapins, who reached the 20-win mark for the seventh straight season. They will face third seed Xavier in the second round on Sunday.
"That will always be special for me," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "It's not easy to do that when you're not playing particularly well. We have heart. I hope nobody questioned our heart the last two games."
It was a heart-breaking defeat for NC-Wilmington (24-7), which was a moment away from its second straight first-round upset. The Seahawks surprised Southern California as a 13th seed a year ago.
"Five seconds is an eternity in basketball," NC-Wilmington coach Brad Brownell said. "We did everything we could. Give credit to Drew Nicholas. He made the game-winner."
Freshman John Goldsberry made all eight of his 3-point attempts to break the NCAA Tournament record set by Florida State's Sam Cassell, who went 7-of-7 in 1993. Goldsberry led all scorers with a season-high 26 points.
He had help from Brett Blizzard, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the final 6:09.
Nicholas completed a three-point play with just under eight minutes to go, giving Maryland a 62-56 lead. But Goldsberry answered with a 3-pointer and Blizzard drilled three in a row around a free throw by Terps' freshman Nik Caner-Medley, putting NC-Wilmington in front, 68-63, with 3:41 left.
Nicholas connected from beyond the arc 13 seconds later and Blizzard and Randle each made a free throw, leaving the Seahawks with a 69-67 edge with 2:11 remaining. Two free throws by Craig Callahan 30 seconds later restored a four-point edge.
Randle made two from the line with 41 seconds left and Blake, who went to the bench with four fouls less than two minutes into the second half, knocked down a 3-pointer with 19 seconds to play, setting the stage for the frantic final sequence.
Despite shooting 62 percent (18-of-29) from the field in the first half, the Terrapins led just 46-41 at halftime. Goldsberry kept the Seahawks close with three 3-pointers and had 11 points over the opening 20 minutes.
Callahan struggled for NC-Wilmington, scoring 10 points - nearly seven below his average - on 2-of-15 shooting. The Seahawks committed just eight turnovers but were outrebounded, 35-29, and shot 36 percent (20-of-55).
Caner-Medley made 5-of-7 shots and scored 12 points for Maryland, which cooled off in the second half and ended up at 50 percent (27-of-54) from the field.