Heels' Forte opens, shuts half-bad Maryland loss

Host Terps fall, 86-83, behind sophomore's blistering second half

19 down, UM rises

streak falls

January 11, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The Maryland Terrapins were looking for added credibility in the Atlantic Coast Conference last night, but North Carolina stormed into sold-out Cole Field House and left the Terps with more questions to ponder about their place among the nation's top teams.

An inspired, late comeback in last night's 86-83 loss to No. 9 Carolina merely covered up a horrid opening stretch in the second half, during which the 14th-ranked Terps forgot to play defense, while the Tar Heels responded with some blistering outside shooting.

Carolina sophomore guard Joseph Forte was the ringleader, pouring in 20 of his game-high 26 points in the second half to lead the Tar Heels (12-2, 3-0).

Forte sparked a 14-4 run that opened the second half and gave Carolina a 46-40 lead it would never relinquish. He then scored 11 of the Tar Heels' final 13 points to hold off the late-charging Terps, who cut the lead to 80-77 with 27.4 seconds left.

But the bottom line was Maryland (11-4, 2-1), which had a 10-game winning streak broken, failed for the third time in three tries to unseat a Top 25 team this season, and the Terps had their share of problems while losing at home for only the fifth time in their last 52 outings.

The Tar Heels had not beaten Maryland in College Park for three straight seasons, and the Terps seemed to be in good standing after taking a 36-32 halftime lead, even though only four Maryland players had scored.

Then came the explosion that knocked out Maryland. Starting with Forte, Carolina kicked the ball outside smoothly, and in the face of soft Maryland defense on the perimeter, the Tar Heels would not miss.

Forte started the assault with a quick, wide-open three-pointer. He was followed by Jason Capel (13 points), whose three gave the Tar Heels a 38-36 lead 96 seconds into the half and prompted a quick timeout by Maryland coach Gary Williams. Three minutes later, Carolina had made four consecutive threes to start the half and had taken a 49-42 lead.

"You can have your mind into it, your body into it and be emotionally ready to play, but when it comes down to it, you have to perform," Carolina coach Matt Doherty said. "It's like a Broadway play. You have to make shots and I thought in the second half we made shots."

By the time the lead had grown to 58-44 with 12:32 left, the Terps had missed 11 of 13 shots after halftime, and their offense - which got a combined 63 points from Juan Dixon (22), Terence Morris (21) and Lonny Baxter (20) and only 20 points from everyone else - could not recover.

"We let the second half get away from us. In order for us to win a championship, we can't let that happen," said Dixon, who was suffering from an intestinal virus. "We came out not ready to play in the second half. It's the same problem we always have. Teams go on runs against us, and we have to play catch-up. We have to come out and get some stops."

"The start of the second half was the game, basically. We lacked the same defensive intensity that we had in the first half. It's very disappointing for me," Williams said. "At halftime, I thought we were in a great position to win the game."

"We let it slip away," Morris said. "We're a really good first-half team, but it's like we lose our motivation in the second half. I really can't explain what it is."

Despite shooting just 31.7 percent in the second half, allowing Carolina to hit eight of its first 10 three-point attempts and falling behind 71-52 with 8:15 left, the Terps showed heart by clawing their way back into contention.

A 12-2 run, capped by a three-pointer from Morris, pulled Maryland to within 73-64 with 3:58 left. After Forte answered with a three, a layup and two free throws to keep Maryland at bay, 78-72, Dixon converted a three-point play to make it 80-75 with 44 seconds to go. Then, junior forward Byron Mouton scored his only points of the game on a three-foot putback to make it 80-77 with 27.4 seconds left.

Forte then hit two free throws to make it 82-77, then added a layup to make it 84-77.

Besides playing poor defense for the game's key stretch, the Terps got only 13 points out of their bench and got only a combined seven points out of Mouton and point guard Steve Blake, who was outplayed by North Carolina's Ronald Curry (11 points, seven assists).

Both teams worked the ball inside from the outset, but the Baxter-Brendan Haywood matchup proved to be a mismatch early, as Baxter pounded the Tar Heels by producing 11 of Maryland's first 13 points.

Haywood was similarly ineffective late in the half, when 6-11 forward Kris Lang switched to defend Baxter, leaving Haywood to check Morris.

With the score tied at 31, Morris blew past Haywood in the low post to make a layup. On his next trip down the floor, Morris hit a 22-footer over Haywood's outstretched hand to give the Terps a 36-31 lead.

Little did the Terps, who last lost Nov. 29 to Wisconsin, know that they had reached their high-water mark.

"We can't play one half and expect to win," Mouton said. "We missed layups, missed easy shots, and didn't play good defense in the second half. You've got to defend your home court, especially in conference play."

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