Sunday Terps Look-ahead: North Carolina and Virginia


(Associated Press)

Welcome to the Sunday Terps Look-Ahead, a weekly feature breaking down the upcoming action for the Maryland men’s basketball team, as well as a brief recap of its most recent games. Let’s get started.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED

The Terrapins (20-9, 8-8 ACC) split a pair of games in their first and only two-game road trip this season, falling at Georgia Tech before turning around and gritting out a win over Wake Forest. The loss in Atlanta represented another low for Maryland, which again sank below .500 in conference play and failed to string together the winning streak necessary to keep its slim NCAA tournament hopes alive. Beating Wake, which topped Miami at home the previous weekend, helped get the Terps on the right track, but they close out the season against two formidable foes this week. Both North Carolina (vs. Florida State) and Virginia (at Boston College) were in action Sunday, so all statistics, records and results are before those games.

WHO’S UP NEXT

Wednesday, March 6 at 7 p.m.: vs. North Carolina (20-8, 10-5 ACC) at Comcast Center. Televised on ESPN/ESPN2.

Saturday, March 10 at 6 p.m.: at Virginia (20-8, 10-5 ACC) in Charlottesville. Televised on ESPNU.

WHAT THEY’VE DONE

North Carolina: Entering Sunday’s home matchup against Florida State, North Carolina had won four straight, most recently a 68-59 squeaker at Clemson that led Coach Roy Williams to describe his players as “pansies.” That streak, which began when the Heels dropped back-to-back games against Duke and Miami in early February, also includes victories against Virginia (93-81), at Georgia Tech (70-58) and versus North Carolina State (76-65).

North Carolina ranks in the top 15 nationally in points per game (77.7), rebounds per game (40.4), assists per game (17.7). The Heels enter this week at 17-2 against teams with an RPI of 51 or worse, but are just 2-6 against the top 50.

Virginia: Arguably the toughest road test outside of the Triangle – and possibly South Beach – this season, Virginia has topped North Carolina, Florida State, Boston College, North Carolina State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and, most recently, Duke at John Paul Jones Arena in ACC play this season. Put plainly, the Cavaliers haven’t lost at home since conference play began, and their 73-68 win over the Blue Devils this past week sparked a raucous court-storming .

Virginia ranks fourth nationally in scoring defense (54.5 points per game), though have most recently engaged in some uncharacteristic shootouts, topping 80 points vs. the Terps, the Heels and Georgia Tech, all in February. Led by ACC player of the year candidate Joe Harris and still squarely on the NCAA tournament bubble, the Cavs are also eighth nationally in three-point percentage (40.0) and are 4-2 against the RPI’s top 50, though some nasty losses against Old Dominion, George Mason, Delaware and at Georgia Tech have kept them from becoming a postseason lock.

WHO THEY’VE GOT

North Carolina: Simply check out the box score of North Carolina’s 62-52 win over Maryland on Jan. 19, a game in which the Terps fell behind by 22 points at halftime and never recovered because, well, how could you? Reggie Bullock led the way with 24 points, including 4 of 7 shooting from three-point range, while James Michael McAdoo chipped in 19 points and 11 rebounds. Both are shooting over 50 percent from the field in conference games. No other Tar Heel had more than six points, however, and Maryland limited P.J. Hairston (13.2 ppg) to just three points off the bench.

Virginia: As Joe Harris goes, so do the Cavaliers. The junior guard lit up Duke for a blistering 36 points on 12 of 20 shooting and dropped 10 of 12 from the free-throw line. He’s shooting 55.5 percent from two-point range at home and 46.3 percent on threes, and has reached double figures in every conference game except a seven-point effort against Boston College.

In an 80-69 win against the Terps on Feb. 10 at Comcast Center, Harris dropped 22 points and Justin Anderson chipped in 17. Maryland didn’t score for four straight minutes to open the second half.

WHAT’S BEEN SAID

“With the small lineup that we have, we’re going to struggle a little bit. But at the same time, we can’t use that as an excuse. We have to be in the right spot at the right time and that’s just something we have to do a better job on.” – North Carolina guard Dexter Strickland

“If people didn’t know about him before, they definitely know about him now. He had a great game on one of the biggest stages of college basketball against one of the best teams in the country. He definitely has a reputation now.” – Virginia’s Jontel Evans on Harris.

 

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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