CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- It was bad enough that Maryland had to play North Carolina after the Tar Heels had lost to Notre Dame. It was bad enough that the Terrapins brought a five-game losing streak into the Smith Center last night.
But did Dean Smith have to get Hubert Davis mad, too?
After not starting for only the second time this season, North Carolina's lone senior settled the 14th-ranked Tar Heels and sank the Terrapins for the second straight year here, scoring his ACC high of 26 points in a 96-76 victory.
Davis scored 15 of his points in the first half -- 10 in his first five minutes -- when, after a shaky start, North Carolina (11-2, 2-1 ACC) took control. The Tar Heels led by as many as 14 in the first half, by 10 at halftime and built their lead to 23 in the second half.
In losing its sixth straight game, matching the school's longest losing streak in three years, Maryland (7-7) fell to .500 for the first time this season. It was also the first time since 1989 that the Terps started 0-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
"I thought coming in here that it would be a tough game," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose road-weary team plays its next three games at home, starting with Florida State on Saturday. "I thought we had several good opportunities to start a run, but it seemed like we couldn't get over the top to affect their confidence."
The Terps were still within 63-53 following a three-point play on a dunk and free throw by Walt Williams with 12:12 to go. But Evers Burns was called for a technical foul -- seemingly a makeup technical for the one called against Smith 19 seconds earlier -- and Maryland never threatened.
After a layup by Garfield Smith with 10:25 to go pulled Maryland to within 67-58, the Tar Heels went on a 10-3 run to wake up the crowd and silence the Terps. North Carolina got several breakaway dunks as the lead grew to 93-70. Both Williams and Burns fouled out for Maryland in the closing minutes.
"I thought we played hard and ran our offense a lot better," said Walt Williams, who shot 10 of 18 from the field, including four of six from three-point range, and finished with 32 points, one shy of his career high set two years ago against the Tar Heels. "We still have to do what it takes to win a game."
A lineup adjustment didn't change Maryland's luck, but it did help Smith. After not starting for the first time this season because of a recent shooting slump -- Chris Kerwin started at center, with Burns moving to power forward -- Smith had 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Burns had 17 points.
But it was another sub, Davis, who provided the biggest spark last night. After not grading out well defensively in Saturday's 12-point loss to the Fighting Irish, Davis took a seat on the North Carolina bench. He did not sit there long, as the Tar Heels committed four turnovers and missed four of their first five shots.
"You have to set an example every time out," said Davis, whose previous ACC high was a 25-point performance against the Terps. "I want to go out there and be a leader. I felt very comfortable with the shot. The coaches tell me, if the shot's there, take it. If I'm on the bench, maybe I can cheer and that will help."
Maryland would have preferred Davis on the bench. He made his first two shots, both three-pointers. That set the tone for the evening, not only for himself, but for his teammates as well. Davis finished eight of 12 from the field, including four of six from three-point range. The Tar Heels were 36 of 63, eight of 13 on three-pointers.
"Hubert has a great attitude," said Dean Smith. "I said to him, 'Maybe I'll have you come off the bench.' He couldn't wait to take his shots."
The Terps added another dimension to their recent misfortune: bad luck. They might have stayed closer in the first half had three shots that were three-quarters of the way through the basket not spun out. But Gary Williams is not one to use excuses.
Take, for instance, the technical of Burns. After Williams was fouled while throwing down a monstrous two-handed dunk over 7-foot center Kevin Salvadori, the normally effusive Burns yelled at his teammate. Referee John Moreau thought Burns was talking trash to Salvadori and called a T. The excessive celebration rule had made its way to college basketball.
Asked if he thought the technical on Burns prevented the Terps from coming back, Gary Williams said, "You can't use anything for excuses. You should give Carolina credit for picking it back up. But the timing was terrible. He got excited and said, 'Yes, yes, yes.' "
Dean Smith had a little empathy for Maryland, and possibly for Burns. Despite the victory, Smith didn't seem enthralled with the officiating either. It was also Smith's first technical of the season.
"I wasn't particularly happy all evening. You could take it any way you want to take it," said Smith. "Gary and I would agree, and you could take that any way you want to take it."
Said Gary Williams, "If I stay in this game a long time, I hope I can compete the way that Dean Smith does."
Ditto for his team.