Terps take big tumble, 84-72

UNC's quarterfinal upset could drop Maryland to 5th or 6th seed in NCAA

`We deserve to be punished'

Swept badly in season, Tar Heels stun No. 2 seed

Acc Tournament

March 15, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Maryland Terrapins seriously thought they could win their first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in 19 years. Over the course of 40 stunning minutes in a quarterfinal encounter with North Carolina last night, that vision went up in flames.

The 14th-ranked Terps, looking nothing like defending national champions or conference title contenders, surrendered control of the game in the first half to a team they had handled with ease during the regular season.

Then, in the second half, with its frontcourt stuck in neutral, its point guard out of control at times and its pressure defense helplessly trying to stop the hot-shooting Tar Heels from making wide-open three-pointers or converting much easier baskets, No. 2 seed Maryland came unglued before 23,745 at Greensboro Coliseum.

The result was an 84-72 loss to seventh-seeded Carolina, a team the Terps had blown out by 40 points three weeks ago in College Park and had swept by a combined 55 points in the regular season.

The loss probably will yield additional damage when the 65-team NCAA tournament field is announced tomorrow. With last night's defeat, Maryland (19-9) most likely will slide to a fifth seed and could tumble to a sixth seed, probably in the West Regional

"I'm sure it will hurt us, and we deserve to be punished after the way we played tonight," senior point guard Steve Blake said in the middle of a dejected Maryland locker room.

Two weeks ago, the Terps were riding high after an exhilarating, come-from-behind victory at North Carolina State. Then came last Sunday's overtime loss at Virginia, where Maryland was out-rebounded by a margin of 23 and generally played with a troubling lack of fire.

That was merely a warm-up for last night's meltdown, in which Maryland failed for the first time since 1994 to advance to the league tournament's semifinal round.

After claiming repeatedly during the week that they had learned a valuable lesson, the Terps were flat enough to become the first No. 2 seed to lose in the tournament's quarterfinal round since 1993. Only five No. 2 seeds in the tournament's 50-year history had lost in the quarterfinals.

"Carolina looked like they were more motivated than we were. You'd think playing for the ACC championship would be enough motivation," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "Everybody talked a good game. Talk is cheap."

There was nothing cheap about the Tar Heels (17-14), who played with the same inspiration they showed when upsetting Duke in their regular-season finale.

Carolina committed 23 turnovers but overcame its ball-handling deficiencies by shooting the ball extremely well, using its hustle to get to the foul line 36 times and out-rebounding the Terps, 40-30, despite giving up considerable size.

The Tar Heels shot 53.2 percent, bolstered by an 11-for-23 showing from three-point range. Sophomore forward Jawad Williams led the way with a game-high 25 points. Freshman point guard Raymond Felton had 20 points and 10 assists. Sophomore guard Melvin Scott came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc. Sophomore forward Rashad McCants had 12 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Maryland was a mess in many ways. Its offense, which committed 12 second-half turnovers, consisted of too much one-on-one activity and impatient shooting on the perimeter and not enough ball movement and will to create high-percentage shots inside. Its defense was a step slow for most of a foul-marred night, as the Tar Heels spent the game's final 8:46 in a double bonus situation.

Its frontcourt, inconsistent for much of the season and especially of late, hit another low. Senior center Ryan Randle scored one point and committed four fouls in 13 lackadaisical minutes. Senior forward Tahj Holden had six points and three rebounds in 36 minutes before fouling out.

Freshman forward Nik Caner-Medley scored five of his nine points in the game's final three minutes, when the Terps were scrambling desperately with a four-guard alignment to create turnovers and quick scores.

The starting backcourt of Blake and Drew Nicholas kept the Terps afloat for a while, but both struggled mightily in the second half, when the Tar Heels used an 18-6 run to turn a 50-50 tie into a 68-56 lead with 5:05 left. The run featured a pair of threes by Scott and one by Felton, who pushed the Tar Heels to a 66-55 lead with 7:35 left and got the partisan crowd roaring.

From there, Maryland was a desperate team trying to find a spark it lost after taking a 24-15 lead in the first half, only to surrender 11 straight Carolina points.

A late five-point flurry by Caner-Medley followed by a four-point play by Blake cut the Carolina lead to 78-72 with 1:15 left, but the Terps were running on fumes by then and would not score again.

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