CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Maryland guard Rasheed Sulaimon was loudly booed by fans at the Dean E. Smith Center every time he touched the basketball on Tuesday night in Chapel Hill.
Every. Single. Time.
It is to be expected, to some extent, for a former Duke Blue Devil who was returning to play North Carolina in the jersey of the team that is perhaps a close second in terms of evoking feelings of displeasure from the Tar Heel fan base.
But Sulaimon was even-keeled and vital to Maryland’s ability to go shot-for-shot with North Carolina, tallying 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting from three-point range despite Maryland’s 89-81 loss.
“He’s used to it. He played on the team that’s the most hated team in America everywhere he went,” head coach Mark Turgeon said postgame. “He probably thrived on it. I thought he was terrific.”
Complementing sophomore guard Melo Trimble, Sulaimon was what Maryland did not have in big games last season -- a guard who can take primary ball handling duties off of Trimble’s plate while being a scoring threat capable of commanding the defense’s attention by himself.
“It would be hard to say I tuned it out because it’s 20,000-plus people,” Sulaimon said. “That’s exactly what the crowd wanted me to do, to make it a personal vendetta and get me out of my game so I just tried to totally invest in our team and whatever the team needed me to do to help us win tonight.”
Without Sulaimon, this will have been an entirely different season for Maryland. His poise and ability to almost immediately assimilate himself into this team when joining it fully in the middle of the summer.
Maryland faces St. Francis on Friday in College Park.