Behind hot shooting, total domination of the boards, and possessing intensity not apparent in the gang from Chapel Hill, Maryland blew out UNC, 96-56, before an announced sellout crowd of 17,200 in the Tar Heels' first ever visit to the Terrapins' new home.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed with the outcome of the game, but I give credit to Maryland," UNC coach Matt Doherty said about UNC's worst loss ever to the Terrapins. "I'm a huge Steve Blake fan. We made a pretty good run out of halftime to cut it to seven and Blake, he's cold blooded, hit that 3 and hit another shot like he's playing with you a little bit.
"They are a very good basketball team. My biggest concern is that this game does not impact our game coming up on Tuesday (versus N.C. State). It's important we don't let this game impact us."
To say the Heels were disappointing would be an understatement. They appeared relaxed early on, despite being outplayed by the vastly more experienced Terrapins, and three minutes into the second half, UNC trailed just 47-40. But Maryland senior sensation Steve Blake and Jamar Smith scored 11 of the Terps' next 13 points to extend their lead to 60-42, and Carolina was essentially done.
After a Raymond Felton (eight points, two assists, four turnovers) 3-pointer cut the margin to 62-47, Maryland's John Gilcrest, who's listed at 6-feet-3 but looks more like 6-foot-1, converted a layup, Smith rammed home a one-handed alley-oop slam, and seldom-used 5-foot-9 sophomore Andre Collins put back his own lightly contested missed reverse layup. Clearly upset at his regulars' poor effort, Doherty quickly subbed five new players into the game, with UNC trailing 68-47 with 9:15 left to play.
"I just felt we were falling apart," Doherty said about the mass substitution. "I didn't yell at the guys, I just said, ‘Hey, we gotta battle and we gotta stick together, and I didn't like the fact that he (Collins) drove from the corner under the basket and nobody was there to stop him and he gets the offensive rebound."
"We were giving it our all," said Rashad McCants, who finished with 11 points. "We played for a stretch there for four or five minutes when guys were probably tired, and we gave up easy baskets and didn't get back in transition and paid for it. He (Doherty) just subbed."
A problem in effort was also illustrated in UNC's transition defense – poor according to Doherty and the players.
In fact, the Terrapins scored 22 fast-break points, but had at least 14 more on their secondary break, which proved to drain on Carolina's mindset.
"Our main thing today was transition defense, just getting back," said Melvin Scott, who led the Tar Heels with 12 points. "They're pretty fast, and they had a lot of long rebounds because we missed a lot of shots, but we just didn't get back like we should have."
The numbers just weren't flattering for UNC. Maryland shot 58 percent (40-69) from the field, including 58.8 percent (10-17) from beyond the arc, had 42 points in the paint, scored 23 points off of Tar Heel turnovers, and got 40 points from its bench. The Terps also outrebounded Carolina, 48-32, including 16 offensive rebounds despite missing just 29 shots.
"We were probably tired," David Noel said. "The starters played most of the first half. It's been a long day for us, it took a long time for us to get here and that's no excuse but it still took a lot out of us."
"They make you pay quickly for your mistakes," Doherty said.
Maryland was led by Blake's 18 points and eight assists, while Drew Nicholas scored 17, Ryan Randle finished with 16, and Gilcrest added 11.
Jackie Manuel had nine points for Carolina and Jawad Williams finished with eight.
Accuracy from 3-point range kept the Tar Heels in the game for much of the first half. Scott dropped a trio of 3s and overall UNC nailed five in the first 12 minutes, but none the rest of the half and only two for the remainder of the game. But the Heels got precious few quality looks near the basket, and thus had few open shots.
Holding a 20-18 advantage with 9:49 left before intermission, Maryland went on a 25-12 run using quality defense (four blocks, five steals) and by knocking down seven of eight 3-pointers to take a 45-32 lead into the locker room.
But this game was about domination, and even though UNC showed up after half the fans had, Doherty said the late arrival didn't affect his team.
"No, not at all," Doherty said. "They had more to deal with this week than we did. They had the postponement of the Wake Forest game and Duke at Duke and then a game today."
Whether it did or didn't, their play told a different story.
Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He also covers the ACC for the Wilmington Star-News/Morning Star and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.