PNC ARENA/RALEIGH Maryland will be carrying the ACC’s banner into the Raleigh Regional, and the Terps’ path to the Final Four is not an easy one.

Maryland guard Laurin Mincy
  • Photo courtesy Maryland athletics
  • Maryland guard Laurin Mincy

First up for the No. 2 seed ACC champions (30-4) is defending NCAA champion Texas A&M (23-10), which will being its No. 3 seed into the house as it plays in its last tournament as a member of the Big XII (or the number of the day) Conference.

Of course if Brenda Frese’s Terps get through this one they’ll look to take their winning streak to 12 games on Tuesday night, probably against last season’s NCAA runner-up and No. 1 seed Notre Dame (32-3) and glamorous point guard Skylar Diggins.

Maryland is one of three teams in the four-team field that has won an NCAA title, that coming in 2006 while Notre Dame got its championship in 2001. The outlier is No. 5 seed St. Bonaventure (31-3).

The Terps rise up from oblivion not once but twice during the game, scoring the last eight points over the final 3 ½ minutes to win 81-74. The other game isn’t nearly as competitive, as the Irish dominate from start to finish in a 79-35 rout.

A&M is the better team for, well, most of the game, as the Aggies lead for a total of 34:19.

The Aggies go up 5-2 on a 3-pointer from freshman guard Alexia Standish with 18:07 left in the first half, stretching the margin to 36-18 on a Standish layup with 7:10 to go.

The Terps make a run, cutting it to 44-41 on a Tianna Hawkins jumper with 29 seconds left in the half before Alyssa Thomas’ layup with 19:21 left cuts the margin to a point.

And then away go the Aggies again, stretching the margin to 60-48 on a Tyra White layup with 13:54 showing.

But the Terps have a comeback waiting.

Maryland finally goes up 73-72 on a Brene Moseley jumper with 4:07 to go, and following another Standish layup starts its final 8-0 run on a Lynetta Kizer bucket at 3:29.

Laurin Mincy and Thomas lead the ACC champions with 21 points apiece, with the 6-foot sophomore guard Mincy hauling in a career-high 12 rebounds. Kizer comes off the bench for 15 points while Hawkins adds 12, leaving the game for good after taking a hard foul from Kelsey Bone with 7:38 to go. Turns out she’s going to be OK.

Standish leads A&M with 19 points while Sydney Carter adds 13. Bone chips in 10 points while Skylar Collins and Karla Gilbert each add 10 off the bench.

Maryland shoots 48.4 percent to 43.8 for A&M, which hits just 34.5 in the second half. The Terps win the rebound battle 42-30, committing 18 turnovers to the Aggies’ 14.

They said it …
Frese: “This one was obviously extremely special and filled with a lot of Maryland magic. For our team we have had so many games where we’ve been battle-tested like today, but obviously not on a stage like this in the NCAA Tournament. When you battle teams in the conference and have to come behind like when we were down 20 to Georgia Tech (in a 77-74 win in College Park Jan. 6), this team knows and has the confidence we can come back against anyone.”

Texas A&M coach Gary Blair: “This was the best Sweet 16 game played so far in the tournament. You saw two teams that were very balanced. … The difference in the game was Maryland’s offensive rebounding and our turnovers at the end.”

Mincy: “We knew getting on the boards was going to win us the game. We just focused on getting on the boards. … We’re just 12 strong and Coach told us to keep fighting. Our senior, Lynetta, personally told us to keep playing, keep playing hard and we all believed in it.”

Kizer: “I think when we were down 18, what was playing in my mind was I didn’t want this to be my last game. That was honestly all I could keep thinking. They kept telling us to board and kept telling us to defend.”

What does it all mean?
That the Terps obviously have a little more magic left in them. And that A&M is headed to the SEC.

Stars of the game
1. Mincy.
2. Thomas.
3. Standish.

Play of the game
Moseley’s jumper for Maryland’s first lead of the second half.

Maryland: Won 10.
Texas A&M: Lost 1.

Maryland leads 1-0.

Up next
Maryland vs. Notre Dame at RBC Arena, Tuesday, 9 p.m.
Texas A&M in 2012-13 opener