CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In a game that was on the verge of spiraling out of control for Maryland on national television and in front of a packed Dean Smith Center in the first half, what followed was the gutsiest performance of the year by the Terrapins despite their defeat.
In a battle between the nation’s No. 2 and No. 9 teams, a fight to the end was ultimately a 89-81 Maryland loss to North Carolina on Tuesday night in Chapel Hill.
Melo Trimble, in a valiant effort, posted 23 points and 12 assists. North Carolina’s Marcus Paige countered masterfully with 20 points and five assists of his own.
Here are five things you need to know.
1) Furious pace early and Terps look jumpy
Through five minutes, Maryland had six turnovers and North Carolina’s efforts to get the ball out of Melo Trimble’s hands by hedging far away from the rim and not allowing consistent dribble penetration.
The result was a rushed offense that was trying to fit passes into windows that weren’t there. Maryland turnovers allowed North Carolina to get out on the run. Turgeon said before the game that the Terrapins could not afford to play at UNC’s hyper speed for 40 minutes. It’s clear why.
2) Life to end the half
Maryland trailed by 12 points with 4:49 to play in the first half and the game was teetering on the edge of getting out of hands. That’s when the turnovers dried up and the Terrapins gave themselves a chance.
Maryland is never out of a game if its shooters are locked in, whether it’s Jared NIckens, Rasheed Sulaimon, Melo Trimble, or Jake Layman. A 9-3 run to end the half made it a manageable 41-35 deficit at the break.
3) Matchup that we expected
North Carolina is not an undersized, scrappy mid-major with small lineups that test Maryland. This is big man vs. big man, elite guard vs. elite guard, roll it out and play basketball. The turnovers are what hurt Maryland early, but there were no real bad matchups for them.
When the Tar Heels went on their run, it was because of execution and not a systematic mismatch.
4) Absolute heavyweight title fight
The second half of this game was a blow-for-blow heavyweight boxing match. Maryland tied the game, 55-55, with 14:54 to play and they went shot-for-shot after that. There was a stretch of time where Trimble assisted or scored eight of nine Maryland baskets.
Marcus Paige, making his season debut after recovering from a hand injury, was answering everything that Trimble was doing. The basketball was crisp. The Dean Dome was jumping.
5) UNC pulls away late
The game was tied, 69-69, with 8:49 to play after a pair of Jake Layman free throws. From there, North Carolina’s unbelievable clip from three-point range persisted and the turnover bug bit again down the stretch for Maryland.
North Carolina was 6-of-7 from deep in the second half and 9-of-13 for the game.
The Terrapins would trim the lead down to as little as six points late, but it was not enough.