CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- No. 21-ranked North Carolina provided the obstacle yesterday between No. 1 Maryland and its rematch with No. 2 Virginia on Tuesday night.
Two tall obstacles, in fact.
But Maryland persevered, converting 38 free throws, fouling out three North Carolina starters and placing all five Terps starters in double figures for a 92-78 Atlantic Coast Conference victory before 2,950 at Carmichael Auditorium.
The victory was the 11th straight for Maryland (20-1 overall, 10-0 in the league).
Junior forward Malissa Boles led the Terps with 19 points. Michele Andrew and Jessie Hicks each had 18 points. Dafne Lee scored 14 points, including 10 of 10 free throws, and Limor Mizrachi scored 13 points.
The Tar Heels used two of the ACC's tallest players -- 6-foot-4 Sylvia Crawley and 6-7 Gwendolyn Gillingham -- to combat Maryland's physical inside game. In just four minutes of the first half, the twin towers helped North Carolina cut a 33-17 deficit to 41-34 by halftime.
UNC sophomore Tonya Sampson was another problem for the Terps. Despite playing with pneumonia, she scored a game-high 26 points, including five straight that brought North Carolina within 52-51 with 12:40 to play.
Up stepped Maryland's Mizrachi, the sophomore point guard who demoralized the Tar Heels with a long three-pointer at the halftime buzzer in a 72-68 victory at College Park last month.
Again yesterday, she set North Carolina back on its heels.
With the 30-second shot clock running down, Mizrachi drove the lane and hit a jumper at the buzzer for a 54-51 lead.
Next play. Top of the key. Another jumper from Mizrachi and Maryland was back on its toes, 56-51, with 11:38 remaining.
"She's tough in those situations and does seem to force the issue," said Maryland coach Chris Weller. "I've got a lot of confidence in her there."
"It's not important who makes the shots, but I feel more confident when it's close," Mizrachi said. "I know we need to push more and I know we're a good team. All the time I think we can win."
Maryland built its lead to 78-66 on a layup by Lee with 3:47 to play. The Tar Heels got as close as 85-78 with 1:05 to play, but the Terps converted their last six free throws to walk away with a comfortable victory.
"This was a great game for us because I thought we were steady at both ends," Weller said. "Both teams put it inside to get players in foul trouble, and both teams did.
"I think we've played pretty level-headed while being No. 1. We know we can't being looking ahead of any game."
Weller helped improve the Terps' free-throw shooting from a season average of 68.5 percent to 88.4 percent yesterday by having every player shoot free throws until they made 100 a day for the past week.
With Virginia ahead, what's left to do?
"If we get into a one-point game like we did today," Mizrachi said, "obviously then we've got a lot to do still."