For as long as basketball is played at the University of Maryland, they'll talk about the time the Terrapins dismantled, discombobulated and dismissed a North Carolina team many say is the best in the nation.
The Terrapins were so good last night in a 106-94 victory over third-ranked Carolina that they could afford to play most of the second half without Adrian Branch, who scored 24 of the most electrifying points ever posted in Cole Field House.
And when it wasn't Branch, it was center Ben Coleman, who scored 22 points on nine-for-10 shooting and did a tap dance on the Tar Heels' all-America Sam Perkins. And when it wasn't Coleman it was Jeff Adkins, who scored a career-high 25 points and handed out six assists.
And perhaps most important was the smothering second-half defense Herman Veal played on Michael Jordan, who may be the best guard in the nation.
After Jordan scored 15 points in the first half and led Carolina to a 46-40 lead, Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell walked into the locker room and asked, "Is there anybody in this room that can guard Michael Jordan? If there is, let me know."
Veal raised his hand, then kept Jordan from scoring the first 14:02 of the second half. Veal also had 11 rebounds. "Herman Veal is a big boy," said Branch. "He does all the dirty work. And guarding Michael Jordan is dirty, dirty work."
With Jordan in check, Maryland outscored North Carolina, 21-3, and turned a 48-42 deficit into 63-51 lead with 13 minutes to play.
Coleman started the spurt with a hook over Perkins and Branch followed with consecutive three-pointers, the second after Coleman made a steal. It was then, with 17 minutes left, that Carolina Coach Dean Smith did something he rarely does: call a timeout.
It didn't work. Perkins (20 points) shot an air ball and Adkins followed with a loose-ball layup. Jim Braddock missed a three-pointer, but Adkins didn't. His 20-footer from the left corner gave Maryland 13 straight points and a 55-48 lead with 15:30 left.
Adkins was magic all night, making seven of 10 shots, four of five the second half and three of five three-pointers. Even one of his crooked alley-oop passes to Coleman went in for three points.
Adkins' next alley-ooper was straight, right into the hands of Len Bias, who defied physics by hanging in the air for about three seconds, then unleashing a 20-megaton dunk that put Maryland ahead, 67-54, and sent the overflow crowd rocking in ecstasy.
From there, Carolina (21-5, 8-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) tried to come back with three-pointers, something the Tar Heels do better than any other team in the conference. But almost every time Carolina made one, Maryland answered with three.
Carolina cut its deficit to 97-88 with 1:03 left on a three-pointer by Jordan. But Pete Holbert made three consecutive free throws to put the Terrapins over the century mark and end the suspense.
The Terrapins' victory broke a six-game losing streak to North Carolina, and was the Tar Heels' first loss in the ACC.
Maryland boosted its record to to 15-6, 4-4 in the ACC. The victory should provide a big push toward a tournament bid with three weeks left in the regular season.
"Maryland doesn't look like a team that has lost six games," said Carolina's Smith. "They certainly put one on us. They outquicked and outhustled us, especially during that stretch."
Smith said it was the first time in his 22 years as head coach at Carolina that one of his teams averaged a point per possession and lost.
A lot of the postgame excitement centered around Branch's shooting. He entered the game making only 15 percent from three-point range, but made four of his first five last night. "I don't know if he can keep shooting them like that," said Driesell, "but I hope so."
But even more of the postgame analysis was focused on Veal's defense against Jordan, "which may have been the key to the game," Driesell said.
Adkins said the players were upset at halftime. "We left the locker room mad after halftime, and Herman was leading us," he said.
Veal, a 6-6 junior forward, denied Jordan the ball. Jordan finished with 25 points (nine of 22 from the field) but could get off only two shots the first 14 minutes of the second half after shooting at will in the first half.
"You can't score without the ball," Veal said. "And when he did get it, I tried to stop him from going to his right. He has as much stamina as any player I've ever guarded. He's constantly moving. I was getting too tired to run down on offense. I wanted a break, but I didn't want Jordan to go crazy again."