Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The methodical North Carolina Tar Heels took Maryland's best overall effort of the basketball year and sealed it in a four-corners coffin last night.
With 13:20 left and the score 58-58, the Tar Heels went to their four-corners delay game to douse a raging Maryland fire, score twice through the back door and finally win, 66-64. Jo Jo Hunter's 20-footer fell astray at the buzzer, leaving the Terps 1-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 12-9 overall.
Mike O'Koren scored two backdoor baskets off passes from Phil Ford, the director of the lethal stall, for a 64-58 lead with 2:25 left.
Maryland cut that to 64-62 on a basket by Al King and one by Lawrence Boston after Greg Manning tied up Ford and forced a jump ball.
With 48 seconds, Maryland pressed man to man in the backcourt, but the ball went upcourt - inbounds to Ford, to Tom Zaliagiris at halfcourt, to Rich Yonakor, to a wide-open Al Wood for a layup and 66-62 lead with 21 seconds left.
Maryland lost the ball on its next possession as Boston was called for a foul for setting a moving pick. "It was," Boston claimed later, "the worst call I've seen in my life. The officiating lost it for us."
The Terps were granted a brief reprieve when Zaliagiris missed the first shot of his one-and-one opportunity and Maryland capitalized with a 20-foot jumper by Hunter to cut the lead to 66-64 with 11 seconds left.
Terps immediately fouled Al Wood, who went to the line with four seconds left. He missed his free throw and after John Bilney rebounded for Maryland and called timeout, there were three seconds showing on the clock. When the Terps came back on the court, the clock had been changed to show four seconds. "I've never heard of that," said UNC Coach Dean Smith, "except at Munich."
With :004 left, Hunter brought the ball upcourt, pulled up to the right side of the key and misfired.
"That's not really the shot I wanted him to take," said Coach Lefty Driesell, who has lost six straight games over three seasons to UNC. "I wanted him to penetrate. I don't know why he went to the side. Four seconds is enough time to dribble the ball all the way to hoop and try to get a foul."
Driesell was asked if he was happy about the way his team defensed the four corners.
"We lost and I ain't happy about nothing," said Driesell. "They don't like to play us here and that way (in four corners) they don't have to play us. I like to play them 40 minutes of basketball sometime and see what happens.
"I thought our ball club played very well. May'be this is a blessing in disguise."
Boston also expressed a desire for a 30 second clock "to take all the bush away." The Terps seemed particularly wounded, in view of the fact that this had been one of their finest games.
"Was that the same team, I saw play Notre Dame?" Smith wanted to know afterward. "I congratulate Coach Driesell for getting his team so ready to play us. I didn't want to play against the zone. They were rebounding. They were sky high."
Before the slowdown, Maryland spent a lot of time in a match-up one-three-one zone that could be dismantled only by Ford. He dismantled it pretty well, hitting 11 of 15 shots for 22 points, two hours before his 22nd birthday.
The Terps never led in the second half but never trailed by more than six points. They led for the last time at 32-30 with 6:14 left in the first half.
Driesell stayed with his starting lineup for virtually the entire game, as Al King scored 22 points and Boston had 19. The Terps held a 29-25 edge on the boards and lost the ball only 11 times.
Maryland used to kinda fold," said Zaliagiris. "Tonight, they kept their praise."
Ford was worried right up until the last shot. He tried to defend against Hunter from eight feet away.
"I jumped as high as I could and yelled at him," said Ford. "Then I just hoped."
The victory upped seventh-ranked UNC's record to 7-2 in the ACC and 19-4 overall.