By Eric Prisbell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 3, 2006
Maryland did not have a problem protecting the ball last night or slowing Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina's standout freshman. What bothered Maryland Coach Gary Williams most about his team's 77-62 loss was something more fundamental.
"I was disgusted with how we competed," Williams said.
He remained in the locker room with his team for 20 minutes after the loss, one of the more disappointing of the season, but no words could make up for the opportunities that were lost.
Gone was the chance for Williams to become Maryland's all-time winningest coach at home against one of the nation's storied programs.
And gone was the chance to capture a fifth ACC victory before reaching the halfway mark of the conference schedule this weekend. The Terps (14-6, 4-3 ACC) now must beat No. 18 North Carolina State on the road Sunday to avoid a three-game losing streak.
This was not last year's Tar Heels, who won the national title with a roster laden with future pros. This was a youthful, turnover-prone North Carolina team that withstood the hostile atmosphere of Comcast Center and the particularly raucous crowd of 17,950.
Maryland point guard D.J. Strawberry described the Tar Heels (13-5, 4-3) as a team that "knows they are good." When asked to describe his own team, Strawberry said, "Sometimes we play like we know we're good, and sometimes we play like we don't know what is going on.
"We have to get up for this game, and we just did not do it."
Williams felt his team's attitude was most evident in the rebounding battle, which North Carolina dominated, 52-34. In spite of the lopsided margin, it looked like Maryland had the type of game it wanted at halftime.
The Terps, after committing a total of 45 turnovers in two games last week, had only four at the break last night. They finished with 12; backup point guard Sterling Ledbetter showed promise with five assists and no turnovers.
But in the game's final 15 minutes, Maryland's half-court offense unraveled. The Terps shot only 26.5 percent in the second half.
In all, the Terps made only 3 of 16 three-pointers and 9 of 17 free throws in the game. Strawberry and Mike Jones missed critical opportunities from the line in the final minutes.
Nik Caner-Medley led Maryland with 15 points, but the senior made only 6 of 19 shots. Jones, who tied a school record with seven three-pointers in Saturday's loss at Temple, made only 1 of 4 three-pointers.
"What we have to rely on is our offense," Williams said. "Not taking a guy one-on-one to get shots. I think we broke down in our half-court offense. Even when we lost to Temple, we relied on what we had done in practice."
North Carolina grabbed a nine-point lead after stopping Maryland from scoring for almost four minutes. Reyshawn Terry, who scored a game-high 20 points, swished a baseline jumper. Then Hansbrough, who added 15 points, got the ball in the post and dumped it off to a cutting David Noel (19 points) for a dunk with 8 minutes 12 seconds remaining.
North Carolina trailed by only two at halftime even though Hansbrough, the ACC's third-leading scorer, did not score his first points until more than 14 minutes had elapsed, when he sank a baseline shot over Travis Garrison. Maryland did a fine job early neutralizing the 6-foot-9 Hansbrough by matching him with 7-1 Will Bowers, who has played well of late defensively.
The Tar Heels struggled to feed the ball in the post to Hansbrough and he bobbled his share of passes. He finished with eight turnovers, which was typical of a North Carolina team that had 15 by halftime.
"They made it tough for us getting it in to Tyler," North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said. "And when we did get it in to him, he didn't make the best decisions with the ball. Getting a road win in this league is pretty impressive."
Strawberry said Sunday's game is no more critical than it would have been had Maryland won last night. The challenge, he said, will be for Maryland to match its opponent's intensity.
"North Carolina," Strawberry said, "wanted this game more than we did."