Maryland vs. North Carolina: Terps fail to get big win against No. 19 Tar Heels

North Carolina's Tyler Zeller dunks in front of Sean Mosley, left, and Dino Gregory. Zeller scored 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting.
North Carolina's Tyler Zeller dunks in front of Sean Mosley, left, and Dino Gregory. Zeller scored 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting. (Peyton Williams/getty Images)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 27, 2011; 11:53 PM

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - There was plenty for Maryland to regret in its string of narrow defeats to ranked teams in the season's early going. The Terrapins either started slowly, failed to finish strong or gave games away on the free throw line.

But Sunday at Smith Center, Maryland threw all it had at 19th-ranked North Carolina and got manhandled all the same, falling to the Tar Heels, 87-76, before a raucous crowd of 20,853.

The defeat ensures that Maryland (18-11, 7-7 ACC) will finish the regular season without a signature victory, having failed to beat a ranked team in six attempts.

Desperate to make a bold statement Sunday, Maryland simply had too little to offer in the way of a rebuttal to North Carolina's superior size, skill, quickness and depth.

With six McDonald's all-Americans on its roster to Maryland's zero, North Carolina boasts a sure-handed 7-footer in Tyler Zeller, arguably the nation's best shot blocker in 6-10 John Henson, a rookie-of-the-year candidate in 6-8 forward Harrison Barnes and a selfless point guard with a knack for pinpoint passes in Kendall Marshall.

And Maryland could do nothing to knock any of them off their form.

Zeller contributed a team-high 25 points. Barnes added 21. Henson grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked seven shots. And Marshall and his back-court mate Dexter Strickland combined for 18 assists, consistently feeding the ball to the big men with the best angle and the guards with the hot hand.

Maryland's offense came from two sources: Freshman Terrell Stoglin, who scored 28 on 11-of-20 shooting, and sophomore center Jordan Williams, who earned his 22nd double-double of the season with a 16-point, 19-rebound performance despite battling the effects of a stomach bug that kept him awake all but two hours the previous night.

With the victory, North Carolina (22-6, 12-2) moved into a tie with Duke atop the ACC standings and extended its unbeaten record at home to 14-0. The teams will meet Saturday at Smith Center in the regular-season finale for both.

Coach Gary Williams conceded afterward that in order to beat a team with the Tar Heels' size and skill, Maryland needed to play near-perfect basketball.

The Terrapins fell short, but not for lack of trying - particularly on the part of Stoglin, who gave short shrift to the distributing aspect of his role (three assists) in favor of shooting, driving and slashing to the basket in a frantic effort to make up ground after North Carolina took a 12-point lead at the half.

"You get behind, you have no choice: The game plan kind of changes," Coach Williams said, asked about Stoglin's frenzied shooting. "Whoever can put it in the basket, you call his number."

It was the first game at Smith Center for Stoglin, as well as Jordan Williams, and taking the court fulfilled a childhood ambition for the 6-1 freshman guard.

"I used to always watch North Carolina play here, and I wanted to see how it felt," Stoglin said afterward. "It felt real good. I was real energetic. I had a bounce."

But Barnes was the stellar freshman at the outset, hitting three three-pointers in the first four minutes to almost single-handedly put the Heels up, 11-5.

Stoglin flashed both his strengths and weaknesses in the early going, driving for an off-handed jumper and making good on the free throw that followed. But it was the only basket he made in his first seven attempts.

After three fruitless possessions by North Carolina, Sean Mosley stripped the ball and knotted it at 13. But with Jordan Williams grabbing a rare breather on the bench, Maryland lost ground quickly.

Zeller hit a pair of jumpers then followed a block by Henson with a dunk that put the Heels ahead, 22-15, and electrified the crowd.

Stoglin got to the line for a pair of free-throws that pulled Maryland within four, 31-27.

North Carolina roared back with an 11-2 run, with Zeller near unstoppable inside, to go up, 41-29.

The Heels didn't shoot much better than Maryland in that stretch, but they used their height to pound the offensive boards, creating shot after shot until one finally fell. And North Carolina took a 43-31 lead to the locker room at the break.

It was the biggest halftime deficit the Terrapins faced all season.

With roughly two minutes remaining, Mosley hit a three-pointer to pull Maryland within 82-74. But it was too little, too late.

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