Maryland had motive and opportunity yesterday against North Carolina but could not bring the latter to fruition, as the Tar Heels, using a flurry of offensive rebounds and superior depth, took an 87-75 decision at Cole Field House.
Minutes played were just as important as points scored for the eighth-ranked Tar Heels. Nine of Coach Dean Smith's 15 players logged at least 10 minutes, a big factor in a 26-12 second-half run that gave the visitors control of the game.
Maryland (13-11, 3-8 in the ACC) made 37 percent of its shots in the second half. The team scored on consecutive possessions only three times in the final 20 minutes. Only once were the Terrapins able to score, stop North Carolina and then score again.
"I liked the way our players competed. We were trying in the second half but we just couldn't keep up," said Maryland Coach Gary Williams. "Emotionally we have to be tough throughout the game. We were for 20 minutes but we weren't able to sustain it in the second half -- we seemed like we were a step behind."
Senior forward Rick Fox had 19 points and seven assists for North Carolina (19-4, 8-3), and center Pete Chilcutt had 14 points and nine rebounds. Maryland was paced by Kevin McLinton's career-high 21 points, with Cedric Lewis scoring 20.
In addition to getting another conference win (after a 96-93 victory over Georgia Tech last Wednesday), the Terrapins hoped to ensure a .500 season as well as beat a top-10 team.
As was the case against the Yellow Jackets, there was a sellout crowd of 14,500 on hand, and for a time it appeared another upset was in the making. The Tar Heels led 45-43 at halftime, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds and scoring all but 12 of their points on follow shots, dunks and layups.
"There's nothing you can do about that," said Williams. "You can't jump any higher than you're capable of or bring in a seven-footer off the bench if you don't have one."
Despite the ease with which North Carolina was scoring, Maryland held its own. After a three-point basket by guard Hubert Davis gave the Tar Heels a 29-19 lead, the Terrapins battled back to tie at 37 with 4:10 remaining.
The Terrapins then had three opportunities to take the lead but couldn't capitalize. At the start of the second half, they committed turnovers on their first two possessions. North Carolina came back with baskets by King Rice, Fox and Chilcutt, and Maryland's momentum was gone.
"We had the crowd behind us. It would have been an emotional lift if we had been able to get the lead," said Terrapins guard Matt Roe, who scored 33 points in the Georgia Tech win but had only 11 yesterday. "We just never got there, though. We just ran out of gas."
Offensive rebound baskets by Garfield Smith and Roe helped bring Maryland to 53-49 with 16:32 remaining, but North Carolina went on its 26-12 spurt. The Terrapins got only three baskets over the next eight minutes and missed four straight free throws.
During the Tar Heels' pivotal run, Smith used 10 players, with eight of them scoring.
"Their depth is the main thing, I know it was personally hard for me," said Lewis. "When a team brings in a sub, usually the guy isn't going to be as good, but Carolina has the ability to bring in someone who is equal or maybe even better than the first one. You can never relax."
A layup by Chilcutt gave North Carolina an 81-63 lead with 4:40 to play. Maryland then converted on two offensive possessions, Lewis hitting a hook and McLinton driving for a layup after the Terps forced a turnover.
But there was just 3:59 left. And when Fox came back with a driving layup 12 seconds later, there was no doubt about the outcome.