Carolina built a double-digit first-half lead on three pointers - the old way and the long distance way, and then finished off Maryland in the second half.
“In this stretch of games, our freshmen have grown into sophomores quickly,” David Noel said. “Matter of fact, I think they came in as sophomores.”
Carolina shot just 42 percent from the floor – its poorest shooting performance since suffering through a 40-percent night in an 87-83 loss to Duke on Feb. 7. However, the Tar Heels did convert 7-of-16 threes, while Maryland was abysmal – 19-of-68 field goals and 2-of-10 from beyond the arc.
UNC held the Terps to 28 percent shooting, the lowest field goal percentage by a UNC opponent this year.
“Our defense had something to do with that, but they missed some easy shots,” Roy Williams said. “I thought David Noel was sensational. I thought he was really, really good defensively.”
Tyler Hansbrough led all scorers with 21 points, while Noel and Marcus Ginyard each chipped in 12. Reyshawn Terry, hampered by foul trouble, managed just seven points – snapping a 16-game double figure scoring streak for the junior swingman.
“He’s right there with (former ACC Rookie of the Year) Joe Smith,” Gary Williams said when asked to rank Hansbrough’s freshman season. “I think they have the same work ethic.
“North Carolina has improved a lot (since the game at College Park); we’re about the same.”
With Wednesday’s 95-71 win at N.C. State, UNC (19-6, 10-4 ACC) has won each of its last two contests by 24 points. And by beating Maryland, the Tar Heels secured a top four seed in next week’s conference tournament.
“That’s big,” Wes Miller said. “It’s nice we don’t have to play that first day. That’s great for us.”
It’s easy to understand intensity might be lacking between these two teams heading in polar opposite directions. But in the second half, lackluster play appeared to be lulling the Tar Heels down to their opponent’s level.
A bucket by James Gist cut the Tar Heels' once 18-point lead to 46-35 with 14:09 to play. All of a sudden what looked like a laugher was turning into a tussle. Roy Williams was visibly disgusted following a 7-0 run by the Terps.
But following a TV timeout, Quentin Thomas directed a crucial stretch, scoring two field goals and dishing out two assists, earning extended minutes, en route to a career-high of seven points. When he found Wes Miller for three, 21,750 Smith Center fans nearly brought the house down.
A circus lay up by Hansbrough and a stick back by Ginyard put Carolina up 65-45. Terry then hit a three, Hansbrough followed with a reverse layup, and Ginyard followed with a free throw, steal and a layup to make it 73-50; sending Gary Williams to call another timeout at the 5:24 mark.
By then it was a blowout.
“Everybody that came off our bench had positive minutes for us,” Roy Williams said.
Carolina has two regular season games remaining – on Wednesday versus Virginia (14-11, 7-7) and Saturday at No. 1 Duke (27-1, 15-0). Maryland is now 4-7 since losing Chris McCray to academic ineligibility, following the Terps’ lowest point total in a game since losing 76-52 in Durham on Jan. 7.
“We’ve got to get better and we’ve got some opportunities to do that coming up,” Roy Williams said. “It’s really been a fun group to coach. I never try to have expectations, I just try to have hopes…and my hopes are always high.”