CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- For a half, North Carolina (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP)
overpowered Maryland on the boards, got to the free throw line at
will and ran freely on the break to take a 20-point lead.
In the second half, the Tar Heels came out flat, turned the ball
over and watched their lead shrink to three points.
Rashad McCants hit two 3-pointers late and scored 25 points to
help the Tar Heels hold on for a 97-86 win Sunday, but it was
another shaky moment in an up-and-down season.
"The consistency with which we're playing is mindboggling,"
North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
North Carolina's 55 percent shooting was a season-high in ACC
play. The Tar Heels had a 50-32 edge in rebounding and hit 36 of 50
free throws in a game marked by 55 personal fouls and 80 free
But the Tar Heels committed 12 of their season-high 22 turnovers
in the second half as the Terrapins (13-8, 4-6) fought to get back
into the game. In addition, sophomore Raymond Felton -- the ACC
preseason player of the year -- went 0-for-4 from the field with
three points, six assists and seven turnovers.
In the end, McCants' two late 3s -- one banked in as the shot
clock expired -- allowed the Tar Heels to avoid repeats of earlier
Last month, North Carolina blew a 24-point lead in an overtime
loss at Florida State. The Tar Heels were also unable to hold
second-half leads in losses to No. 1 Duke and Kentucky.
"It seems like we still have a lot to change," said McCants,
who reached the 25-point mark for the seventh time in nine games.
"We have 20-point leads and we just break down so badly. It is so
unfortunate, but we still stuck it out and won the game."
It was a needed win for the Tar Heels, who are in the middle of
a muddled ACC race. North Carolina hosts Florida State on Saturday,
then plays three of its final four games on the road. That stretch
includes trips to Duke and North Carolina State.
"If we want to be where we want to be in the end -- that's
playing in March in the tournament -- we've got to win," said May,
who had 12 rebounds. "We almost let another one slip away, but we
can't worry about it. We got a win out of it."
The Tar Heels turned in one of their best performances of the
season in the first half. They aggressively attacked the basket,
got to the free throw line and scored in transition, romping to a
Maryland shot 30 percent and was outrebounded 30-16 in the first
half, leading coach Gary Williams to lecture his team in the locker
"It was a one-way conversation about how we represent a great
program that won a national championship and has been to a Final
Four," Williams said. "All those things came up and the fact that
it's not right what went on out there the first half. We can play
better than that."
Maryland played with more intensity in the second half, getting
several baskets off turnovers and using a 15-4 run to get back in
"The second half we had our backs against the wall," Smith
said. "And we just had to come out and play with fire or else it
would have looked even worse."
Ekene Ibekwe had two slams off turnovers during the run, which
ended with Smith's 3-pointer that made it 72-66 with 10:11 to play.
The Terrapins eventually closed the gap to 82-79 on a straightaway
3 by John Gilchrist with 4:52 to play.
But North Carolina answered with a five-point burst. McCants' 3
bounced around the rim and dropped through on the next play, then
Scott followed with a fastbreak layup for an 87-79 lead with 3:55
The Tar Heels also needed a bit of good fortune.
With the Tar Heels holding a six-point lead, Felton tried to
find Williams inside, but the pass was tipped by a defender.
McCants picked up the ball behind the arc on the right side and
chucked it at the rim with 2 seconds left on the shot clock.
The ball banked through for a 92-83 lead with 2:01 left, forcing
Gary Williams to wave his hands in disgust.