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February 4, 2014

Tar Heels flatten Terps

In the midst of a turbulent season but fresh off two encouraging wins, the Maryland basketball team viewed Tuesday night's visit to Chapel Hill as a potential springboard back to relevance. With Florida State, Virginia and Duke looming beyond the matchup with the Tar Heels, maybe a lost season could be salvaged with a late-season surge borne out of desperation.

Or maybe not.

The Tar Heels sent the Terps (13-10, 5-5) tumbling back to reality, exploding out of the gates with the game's first 12 points en route to a 75-63 victory in the historical rivalry's final matchup within the ACC. Aided by Maryland mistakes, Carolina (15-7, 5-4) built a 19-3 lead and pushed the Terps into an impossible situation in a rowdy atmosphere at the Dean Dome.

While they would never lead, Maryland went down fighting, cutting the lead to three before the Heels closed the first half on an 11-2 run. The Terps hung tough in the second half as well - getting as close as six - but Marcus Paige (25 points, seven assists) seemed to have an answer each time Maryland put a significant dent in the Carolina lead.

Dez Wells (18 points) was again effective on offense for Maryland, but also managed to rack up seven of the team's 16 turnovers. Roddy Peters had three giveaways in limited playing time, continuing his recent run of inconsistent play. The Terps were undisciplined on both ends of the court, committing 29 fouls that resulted in 37 North Carolina free throw attempts. Carolina's dreadful performance from the stripe - 19 for 37 on the night - was all that kept the Terps within striking distance.

Maryland's entire starting five, as well as Jonathan Graham, finished with at least four fouls, forcing Turgeon to constantly juggle his lineup. Charles Mitchell (five points, 13 rebounds) was the only Terrapins player to foul out, however. Evan Smotrycz (14 points) and Seth Allen (11 points) were the other Maryland players to score in double figures.

The Terps appeared rattled by the Chapel Hill crowd, turning the ball over 12 times before intermission and repeatedly forcing shots early on. They shot 28.6 percent and tallied only four assists as a team in the first half, failing to capitalize as the Tar Heels went ice cold before eventually stringing together a handful of easy buckets to go into the locker room up 12.

Not an outside shooting team, North Carolina lived in the paint and on the free throw line on Tuesday. The Tar Heels made 25 of 51 attempts on the night, making them the third Maryland opponent in the last four games to shoot at least 49 percent. James Michael McAdoo (12 points, eight boards) scored nine early points for Carolina, while fellow big man Brice Johnson (19 points, seven boards) made all eight of his shots to supplement the scoring of the starring Paige.

The loss drops Maryland back to .500 in the ACC, as the Terps must now prepare for a rematch with Florida State on Saturday afternoon at the Comcast Center. The Noles torched the Terps a month ago in Tallahassee, hitting 16 threes on their way to a 24-point win.

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