“I haven’t done a very good job with this basketball team the last couple of weeks,” head coach Roy Williams said. “We’ve been living on the edge and it caught up with us today.”
North Carolina (18-1, 3-1 ACC) overcame seven-point second-half deficits in ACC wins over Clemson and Georgia Tech, and it appeared as though the Tar Heels were going to pull another magic trick out their hat when junior wing Danny Green converted a three-point play to put his squad up 78-74.
But Maryland’s intensity and physicality proved too much in the end for the nation’s top-ranked program, which will see its third-longest run at No. 1 in school history end when the next polls come out on Monday.
After Osby (12 points, five rebounds) scored over the smaller Danny Green, who got caught in a defensive switch, North Carolina had three good looks at potential game-tying or game-winning shots in the final 21 seconds. Wayne Ellington missed a 3-pointer and a driving shot to the basket, while Tyler Hansbrough missed an open 3-pointer on a designed play as time expired.
Forward James Gist led the Terrapins (12-7, 2-2) with 22 points and 13 rebounds, while guard Greivis Vasquez added 12 points and 11 assists, despite committing six turnovers. Maryland held North Carolina to 38 percent shooting (30-of-79) on the afternoon, while hitting the same number of shots on 15 fewer attempts to post a 46.9 field goal percentage (30-of-64). Those numbers helped mask the Tar Heels’ 46-38 rebounding edge.
“They wanted to execute their stuff more than we wanted to stop them,” Marcus Ginyard said. “They got everything they wanted inside, they beat us to the boards, [and] they made us take tough shots defensively. They were just the aggressor today everywhere, and obviously, it shows.”
Williams echoed his junior forward’s statements about the Heels’ defensive effort.
“We didn’t do a good job in the post defense,” the fifth-year UNC head coach said. “We didn’t help down from the front. We didn’t stop the penetration… Our defense didn’t force the turnovers, and they did a great job of taking care of the basketball.”
North Carolina tied their lowest field goal percentage of the season (Ohio State), which was due in large part to the Terrapins ability to stifle the Heels’ vaunted transition offense by sprinting all of their players back to occupy space in the paint, thereby preventing Ty Lawson (11 points, four assists) to find any angles to cut to the basket.
“That was our goal,” said Maryland head coach Gary Williams, who now has six wins against No.1-ranked opponents. “I think Carolina runs the best transition in the country… So if we were going to get beat, they were going to have to do it in their half court offense.”
In fact, the Terrapins gave the Tar Heels a taste of their own medicine.
“They probably outran us – they probably really did,” Williams said. “During a couple of possessions in the second half I was really mad because I didn’t think we sprinted back [and] I didn’t think we got involved.”
Hansbrough fought through numerous double teams to post 17 points and 14 rebounds (six offensive), and Ellington contributed 14 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
North Carolina travels to Miami (14-2, 1-1) on Wednesday, leaving a few days for this group of Tar Heels to find the effort and intensity essential to making a run at the ACC Championship, as there’s no telling if this game will serve as the proverbial wakeup call that this program so desperately needs.
“If I knew what went through 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds’ brains, I wouldn’t ever lose, so we’ll find out how we bounce back at practice and how we bounce back the rest of the schedule,” Williams said. “It’s one game. We’re not going to jump off the top of the building, but if it’s an alarm clock for them and it shakes them up a little bit and it works out, that’s good.”