Buzz Peterson was surprised. Brad Daugherty was glad, as was Steve Hale, the game's defensive star. Dean Smith had little to say about the matter.

The major topic of conversation in the North Carolina locker room after last night's 60-54 victory over Maryland was the timeout that Terrapin Coach Lefty Driesell called with 7:23 to play.

His team was on a run, having outscored the Tar Heels, 12-5, to take a 50-49 lead, and North Carolina's Kenny Smith had just missed a 20-foot jump shot.

"I was surprised," Peterson said. "I thought they had it rolling and, all of a sudden, they called timeout. It gave us a chance to get a rest, and our guys really needed it."

Driesell, still seeking his 500th collegiate victory, said he called the timeout to impress upon his team the need to play smart and take good shots. A similar timeout a few minutes earlier had worked wonders for the Terrapins, who had trailed, 45-38, at the time.

"They were coming back," said Daugherty, the game's leading scorer with 21 points. "I was happy to see it. It gave us a chance to regroup. We had lost our poise momentarily."

Coach Dean Smith was reluctant to comment.

"Please don't ever ask me (about) what any coach does," he said. "I know my team best, he knows his team best."

Then, for emphasis, Smith added, "Any coach."

Hale, whose 12 rebounds and defensive work on Adrian Branch (11 points on five-for-12 shooting) were key factors in the North Carolina victory, also said Maryland's timeout was beneficial to his team.

"It gave us a rest," he said. "It was more psychological than anything else. It gave Coach a chance to say, 'Here's what we're going to do from here on in.' But to say it was the turning point would be hindsight."

But there was no problem in crediting Hale with a playing a major role in North Carolina's second victory over Maryland this season. "Steve Hale was great on Branch," gushed Smith at his postgame press conference.

The 12 rebounds came mainly on long rebounds, a part of the game that has been a Tar Heel weakness this season, according to Hale.

"Coach consciously said that rebounding was our biggest weakness. The last couple of weeks, we've had the big men going to the boards," Hale said. "Coach said what we need now is for the guards to get the rebounds . . . Our guards did a little better tonight, and rebounding is going to be a key for us down the stretch."

When these teams played earlier this season, Branch had 21 points (nine of 14) in a game that Maryland lost by missing free throws at the end. In that game, Len Bias had 23 points.

"We came in concentrating on Branch and Bias," Hale said. "We'll let the other guys beat us."

Hale said he wanted to play Branch tight and challenge every shot. Also, in watching a tape of Maryland, Hale said he noticed two tendencies of the 6-foot-8 senior: Branch will start one way and come back the other to shoot, and he'll take a little hop before his jumper.

"I thought the big key tonight was him missing his first two shots," Hale said. 'If you miss your first two, you might hesitate later on. If he had hit his first two shots, he might have had an excellent game."