It never seems to be the big men who beat Coach Charles G. Driesell's Maryland teams in big games, but always the little guard.
Last night, to the dismay of many in packed Cole Field House, it was North Carolina freshman guard Jeff Lebo who was the star of the Tar Heels' 71-67 ACC victory.
Maryland's man-to-man pressure defense held 6-foot-11 Brad Daugherty to seven-for-14 shooting from the field, 20 percent below his season average. Another 6-11 Tar Heel, Warren Martin, made only two field goals.
But Lebo, in 24 minutes off the bench, made nine of 10 shots for a career-high 18 points, assisted on two other baskets and didn't commit a turnover.
Lebo took the dare when Driesell's defensive plan forced UNC to alter its offensive strategy.
"Maryland played great pressure and stopped the guys inside," North Carolina senior guard Steve Hale said. "So the way to counter that is to penetrate to relieve the pressure. You have to take it yourself. They made us do things differently. They made us take more outside shots.
"It's a great philosophy against us. But Jeff hit the jumpers."
Lebo, who is 6-2, scored 11 of his points in the first half to keep Maryland from running up a sizable lead. His steal and jumper kept the Tar Heels within 18-14. And his jumper after a three-point play by Maryland's Terry Long cut the Terrapins' lead to 21-16.
Lebo made successive baskets again late in the half, one by beating the pressure himself for a layup and one on a reverse layup that cut the Maryland margin to 36-34.
In the second half, successive Lebo jumpers helped reduce North Carolina's deficit from nine points to 58-55 with just less than 10 minutes left.
"He brought his practice play into the game," teammate Kenny Smith said. "I wasn't at the top of my game (four for 10 from the field) and it was really important for someone else to hit the perimeter jumper."
Several of the Carolina players said they found out this summer that Lebo had the goods -- mentally and physically -- to give a quality effort in big games.
"You never really know until it happens," Hale said. "But I'd suspected he'd do himself proud."
Lebo, who is from Carlisle, Pa., also did many relatives proud last night. He grew up watching Maryland perform on television, a big fan of former Terrapins guard Greg Manning.
His father, Coach Dave Lebo of Carlisle High, couldn't be at Cole last night because "we had a game against our big rival," Jeff said later.
But his father's absence didn't detract from Lebo's happiness.
"I got great screens from the big men, Kenny looked for me on the breaks and I got the hot hand," Lebo said, breaking down his success.
North Carolina Coach Dean Smith said Lebo had "his best offensive game" after not shooting well for a couple of games.
Not shooting well for Lebo meant going three for six in his last two games.
Earlier in the day, Lebo went over to George Washington University and shot jumpers for 45 minutes and talked to one of his old coaches, former North Carolina assistant and now GW head coach John Kuester. The session was obviously productive.
The rest of the teams in the country should be so lucky to have a freshman guard who, after last night's performance, found his shooting percentage was at 62 percent.
"I didn't know what to expect when I first got to Carolina," Lebo said. "I knew Kenny and Steve were coming back. I just wanted to push Kenny and Steve and help the team in whatever way I could, whether it was working hard in practice or getting two minutes in the game."
It's obvious that Lebo is pushing Hale and Smith, all right, but he may be pushing them right out of some playing time.