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Maryland beats Alabama, first team to reach the semifinals of the NIT

Alex Len, Rodney Cooper, Nick Jacobs

Maryland center Alex Len (25) blocks the shot of Alabama guard Rodney Cooper (21) with three seconds remaining during the second half of an NIT tournament basketball game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Tuesday, March 26, 2013. Maryland beat Alabama 58-57. At left is Alabama forward Nick Jacobs (15). (AP Photo/Dave Martin)


Alex Len had 15 points and 13 boards, but it was his defense that made the difference for Maryland on Tuesday night.

The seven-foot Ukranian finished with five blocks, none bigger than the one he had on a Rodney Cooper layup attempt with three seconds left. Len swatted Cooper’s shot into the third row, and after Trevor Lacey’s jumper at the buzzer bounced off the rim, Maryland escaped Tuscaloosa with a 58-57 win in the quarterfinals of the NIT.

The Terps are headed to the Garden, where they will take on the winner of Wednesday night’s matchup between Iowa and Virginia.

“We’ve been talking about trying to get a great road win, and to get a postseason win against a team that I thought should have been in the NCAA tournament was just a great win,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “Our defense was just spectacular all night.

“We just held on. I don’t like just holding on, but this time of year any win is a great win.”

What’s more impressive is that the Terps were able to get this win despite playing without freshman Seth Allen, who broke his hand.

Dez Wells and Jake Layman both finished with 13 points for the Terps.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.