Three nights ago, after his last-second basket Beat Clemson, Ernest Graham had a prediction. "I think," he said, "you're going to see the old Terps again."
Graham meant old, as in 1980. But the team that was humiliated, 76-63, by North Carolina in Cole Field House yesterday looked more like ancient Terrapins. Circa 1969. Those Terps were 8-18, last in the ACC.
Maryland (6-5 in the league, 16-7 overall) won't finish last in the ACC this year but its performance yesterday in full view of 14,211 spectators and a national television audience might merit a special citation for uninspired play when inspiration was needed.
"I don't know how we could possibly be flat against North Carolina," said Reggie Jackson, one of four players who stuck around the locker room to face the press. "But we were."
Carolina (8-3 in the ACC, 19-6 overall) removed most of the doubt about this game during a 7 1/2-minute period of the first half. The Tar Heels outscored the Terps, 22-4, for a 32-16 lead with 7:34 left in the half.
During that stretch Al Wood, who scored 28 points on 14-of-23 shooting, had 12 points, most coming when he posted Albert King and turned time and again for short jumpers.
"Once King picked up his second foul I was able to do anything I wanted to do," Wood said. "I didn't even have to work to get it inside."
Rarely did the Tar Heels have to work very hard for a good shot. Their 43-25 halftime lead was built on eight Wood field goals, all in the last 11:18, and a combined 17 points from Sam Perkins as if they owned the area within seven feet of the basket.
Even when Maryland made its run in the second half, cutting the lead to 62-55, with eight minutes left, it was because of a lapse by Carolina. During Maryland's 8-2 spurt Wood twice missed layups, Perkins was called for a charge while missing another layup and freshman Matt Doherty stepped out of bounds while trying to put the ball between his legs on the dribble.
But the Tar Heels weren't about to blow another big lead. After Doherty turned the ball over to the Terps, who were down seven, Greg Manning missed a jumper. Buck Williams (13 points, 17 rebounds) grabbed the ball and pulled it down to his waist. When he did, Wood, even with four fouls, slapped it away. The Tar Heels then killed two minutes in the four corners until Wood took a seven-foot jump shot, good; Coach Lefty Driesell was the nearest Terrapin.
Garham the missed a 20-footer and Perkins hit two free throws to make it 66-55 with 3:43 left and the Maryland fans headed for the doors.
"I really ain't got much to say," Driesell said when his locker room finally opened 20 minutes after the game. "We got the devil beat out of us. I can't ever remember being 18 points down in the first half in Cole Field House. We played very, very poorly.
"I don't know why we're playing like this. It's the same team as last year but it's like night and day. We're going to have to make some changes, do something different."
With that Driesell stalked out.
That still put him ahead of his three seniors, King, who had 19 points on six-of-13 shooting; Manning, who had 13 points and was benched for eight minutes in the first half, and Graham, eight points on four of 14 from the floor including 10 straight misses and three air balls during one stretch.
All left the locker room before reporters were admitted.
"We all wanted to win this one very badly," said Williams, who did remain, "and losing it hurts a lot."
The Terps did not play as if losing meant a lot. Their defense was perhaps best personified by King at one point. As Wood went by him he yelled, "Help," to his teammates who looked at him blankly as Wood made his layup.
The first-half blowout, though, must be attributed in part to Carolina, which was humiliated on its home court in similar fashion by Wake Forest on Wednesday.
Thursday, Coach Dean Smith made the team sit through the entire film of the game -- "I watched it all, now you have to watch it, too," he told the players. Then he sat his starters in the Carmichael Auditorium bleachers and made them watch the second string scrimmage the junior varsity.
Apparently, the thought of repeating such an experience was enough inspiration for Carolina. From the opening minute the Tar Heels were diving and slapping at anything that looked like a basketball. Maryland stayed with the Heels for five minutes, leading, 12-10.
The booing started when a Wood shot made it 41-25 and it grew as the teams left the court at halftime. When the lead reached at halftime. When the lead reached 45-25 on a Wood basket to start the second half, the only sound was silence.
"It certainly doesn't help to hear that king of booing," Jackson said. "Right now it seems as if we have our backs to the wall and everybody's against us, starting with our fans."
The Tar Heels finished the game shooting 59 percent, compared to the Terrapins' 46 percent. Carolina's percentage had to do with the kind of shots its players got against the confused Maryland defense.
"We had some breakdowns in communication," Williams said."At times we'd have two guys playing zone, the others man or the other way around."
The Terps were confused. All day they were confused. Worthy added 15 points and Perkins 13 to Wood's total and guards Mike Pepper and Jimmy Black had eight each. Black also had four assists and three steals in a superb all-round effort.
Carolina playing well is hardly a surprise, though, and Maryland's passive resistance act is becoming less surprisingly with each loss.
Perhaps Dutch Morley summed it up best as several reporters turned to leave the locker room. "Don't kill us," he said.
Too late. North Carolina already had.