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Updated: Saturday, March 13, 2004 1:21 AM EST
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Maryland 87, (14) Wake Forest 86

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Maryland strengthened its case for an NCAA Tournament bid.

John Gilchrist hit a free throw with 3.7 seconds left, giving the Terrapins an 87-86 victory over 14th-ranked Wake Forest in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

Gilchrist was fouled by Taron Downey as he drove to the basket. After making the first, he appeared to miss the second intentionally off the front of the rim. Time nearly expired during the scramble for the rebound before Downey's desperation 70-footer fell well short.

Maryland coach Gary Williams credited Gilchrist for getting a piece of the rebound.

"It worked out well because John made a great play in that he got a piece of it when it was loose on the floor," said Williams, who did not instruct Gilchrist to miss the second shot.

Maryland (17-11), which lost twice to Wake Forest in the regular season, faces North Carolina State in Saturday's semifinals.

Having lost seven of 10 during one stretch in January and February, the Terrapins are on the bubble but played one of the nation's toughest schedules and boast a high RPI rating.

"We all thought with those two wins (coming in to the ACC tournament) that we were in pretty good shape for the NCAA Tournament," Williams added. "But we heard today from the announcers that we had to win the game tonight. If that's true, we came through."

The Terrapins overcame a strong game by Wake Forest freshman Chris Paul, who scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half. He sank a pair of free throws to forge an 86-86 tie with 20 seconds left.

"He's been pretty impressive all year, so it wasn't a surprise," Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser said of Paul's performance. "I thought he played pretty well."

After Paul's free throws, the Terrapins called timeout with 12 seconds left. They got the ball into the hands of Gilchrist, who went one-on-one against Downey.

"We knew John Gilchrist was going to get the ball because he is their most effective player," Paul said. "We guarded him the best we could. Unfortunately, he got fouled and he knocked down one of the free throws."

Six players scored in double-figures for Maryland in the back-and-forth affair, led by Gilchrist and Travis Garrison with 16 points apiece. Garrison also grabbed 10 rebounds.

Chris McCray and Nik Caner-Medley added 13 points apiece for the Terrapins, who squandered an 86-81 lead in the final minute. After Paul hit a 3-pointer, Caner-Medley stopped out of bounds on the inbounds pass, allowing the Demon Deacons to tie it on Paul's two free throws.

Jamaal Levy added 18 points for Wake Forest (19-9), which heads into the NCAA Tournament with a three-game losing streak.

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