COLLEGE PARK -- North Carolina paid plenty of attention to Maryland's Joe Smith and Keith Booth last night, but forgot about Johnny Rhodes, and that proved to be a costly omission.
Rhodes made two three-pointers during an 18-2 run in the first half and hit several key shots in the second as No. 8 Maryland defeated top-ranked North Carolina, 86-73.
Along with point guard Duane Simpkins, Rhodes led Maryland with 21 points, hitting four three-pointers.
In his first two seasons, Rhodes struggled with his three-point shot. But he has been putting more arc on his long-range bombs this season, and they have been falling.
They certainly did last night. Rhodes was 8-for-11 from the field and 4-for-5 from long range.
"Johnny Rhodes hit a lot of long threes," North Carolina coach Dean Smith said. "We were not giving it to him. He even hit one through a double team. We just couldn't get there."
The first two were the big ones.
With Booth in foul trouble, Smith ineffective and Maryland trailing by 11 points, Rhodes took over. He scored 11 straight points during the 18-2 first-half run.
After a three-pointer by Mario Lucas that started the rally, Rhodes hit a three-pointer from the corner. On the next possession, he nailed one from the top of the key that cut North Carolina's lead to four with 4:30 left in the half.
Smith and Booth eventually went to the bench, but two minutes later Rhodes kept scoring. He converted a reverse layup on a pretty feed from Sarunas Jasikevicius as Rhodes got fouled. Rhodes made the free throw, and Maryland trailed 36-35.
Then Rhodes put Maryland ahead for the first time since three minutes into the game, hitting another layup with 1:49 left in the half. Maryland never trailed again because Rhodes was in a groove.
"As far as shooting the ball, I think I had my best game," said Rhodes, having exchanged his uniform for a Maryland warm-up suit and a black knit cap.
Entering the game, Rhodes was shooting 30 percent from three-point range, but he had attempted only 20 shots. He had had just one double-figure scoring game in the past five.
"I have been feeling it the whole year," Rhodes said. "I just have to look for my shot more."
Part of his reluctance to shoot stemmed from his past shooting woes. Last season, his three-point percentage fell from 34 to 31, and his scoring average fell from 14.0 to 12.5.
But Rhodes shot better toward the end of last season, hitting 47 percent overall in his last 10 games and 39 percent of his three-pointers.
He kept working on increasing his shooting arc over the summer, and he said his touch returned during the team's nine-day trip to France.
It has stayed with him this season, particularly in big games. Rhodes scored 16 apiece against Massachusetts and Georgia Tech, 21 in the first meeting against North Carolina and 17 against Wake Forest.
No game was bigger than last night's, and Maryland coach Gary Williams kept Rhodes on the floor for the entire second half.
Rhodes responded with two more three-pointers. He had another fine all-around game, with nine rebounds, four assists and two steals.
But his shooting was the difference.
Carolina pulled within one early in the second half, but with 15:58 left, Rhodes hit a three-pointer that gave Maryland a 50-44 lead.
He continued to break down the 1-3-1 North Carolina zone defense, hitting a three-pointer over Pearce Landry with 7:15 left that increased Maryland's lead to 64-54.
HTC Rhodes also hurt North Carolina inside. His drive to the basket caused Donald Williams to pick up his fourth foul with eight minutes left. Williams later fouled out with nine points on 3-for-11 shooting.
And Rhodes helped cap off Maryland's victory with 42 seconds left, when he scored after a baseball pass from Simpkins.