CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In relative terms, North Carolina's status over the Maryland women's basketball team was comparable to the superiority the San Francisco 49ers are believed to have over the San Diego Chargers in Sunday's Super Bowl.
And the third-ranked Tar Heels, who have won a conference-record 32 straight games, did little to disprove that notion in a dominating 88-67 win over the Terps yesterday at Carmichael Auditorium before a crowd of 3,400.
But in a season when Maryland (9-8, 1-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) has had to search for tiny glimmers of hope wherever they can be found, the Terps discovered one yesterday in their younger players.
Freshmen Sonia Chase and Stephanie Cross showed promise in their first game against the reigning national champions. Chase (McDonogh) had 17 points and eight rebounds, and Cross had 15 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
"I just tried to come out like it was a normal game," said Chase. "If I hadn't done that, I wouldn't have been able to concentrate. I tried to focus in on what we had to do."
Said point guard Karon Ferguson: "[The freshmen] are five little sisters that are coming along. Since we started, they have grown so much. They're much more confident, and you can see that on the court. They're much more outgoing and vocal. They have a ways to go, but you can definitely see the improvement."
The inexperienced and overmatched Terps played North Carolina (18-0, 6-0) gamely at first, but the Tar Heels' depth and experience eventually took control.
The Terps stayed with the Tar Heels for the first few minutes, but ran into trouble when Ferguson went to the bench after picking up her second foul less than three minutes into the contest.
Chase, who has played little this season, replaced Ferguson, and North Carolina turned up its pressure on the freshman with hhTC half-court trap. Maryland turned the ball over on two of the next three possessions.
"We knew what they were going to do, and they knew we knew what they were going to do," said Maryland coach Chris Weller. "Sonia isn't a point guard, and as soon as they had the chance, they put pressure on her."
Tar Heels stars Charlotte Smith (20 points) and Marion Jones (19) spent large stretches of time on the bench in foul trouble, but forward Tonya Jackson made up for their absence. Jackson had a career-high 22 points off the bench, 14 in the first half, and nine rebounds.
In the first half, with Maryland trailing 21-16, Jackson came in and scored all of her first-half points in a six-minute span.
In the second half, after Maryland cut the North Carolina advantage to 70-56 with just under 10 minutes remaining, Jackson scored three quick baskets in a 1:30 span to put the game out of reach.
"I was disappointed in my performance the last two games," said Jackson. "I just decided that I would play hard and be aggressive."
The Tar Heels also dominated Maryland on the boards, out-rebounding the Terps 58-38.
MARYLAND -- Camper 2-4 0-0 4, Chase 6-23 5-6 17, Ohman 4-9 2-3 10, Ferguson 3-6 4-6 10, Purvis 1-20 0-1 2, Cross 6-13 3-5 15, Davis 3-4 3-4 9. Totals 25-79 17-25 67.
NORTH CAROLINA -- Reid 2-6 2-4 6, Smith 9-13 1-5 20, Gillingham 5-5 0-1 10, Lawrence 1-5 0-0 3, Jones 9-13 1-2 19, Cooper 0-2 0-0 0, Suddreth 0-1 2-6 2, Jackson 10-14 2-2 22, Gear 2-5 0-0 4, McKee 0-0 0-0 0, Walker 0-2 2-2 2, Yukojicic 0-0 0-0 0, Walker 0-1 0-1 0. Totals 38-67 10-23 88.
Halftime--North Carolina, 47-32. 3-point goals--M 0-0; NC 2-9 (Smith 1-1, Lawrence 1-4, Jones 0-1, Suddreth 0-1, Gear 0-2). Fouled out--Purvis. Rebounds--M 38 (Cross 9); NC 58 (Smith 12). Assists--M 8 (Purvis 4); NC 21 (Jones 8). Total fouls--M 23, NC 22. A--3,400.