Tyler Zeller went for 30 points on his senior night, John Henson pitched in 19 of his own, and North Carolina easily topped Maryland 88-64 in Chapel Hill, a game that included a 21-1 stretch in which the Tar Heels looked like they would run Maryland out of the gym.
The result continues a rough week for Maryland, which dropped a winnable road game at Georgia Tech on Saturday and then looked overmatched against a superior UNC team tonight. It wasn't a surprising margin, but expecting it didn't make it any less painful.
Things were predictably tough in the opening minutes, with North Carolina jumping out to a sizable lead. A short, ill-willed UNC infatuation with the jump shot gave Maryland an opportunity to get back in it and the Terrapins were able to cut the lead to five midway through the first, but they would get no closer. Carolina closed out the half strong and took an 11-point lead into the break. In truth, Maryland was lucky it wasn't more: they shot only 30% from the floor with 11 turnovers.
Maryland, in surprising fashion, started the second half red-hot, largely thanks to increased defensive pressure. They cut the lead to six quickly, and although they weren't able to maintain the burst, they kept the lead around 10ish. A Nick Faust layup in traffic cut the lead to 11 at the 11:44 mark of the second half, but then the game changed in a big way. Mark Turgeon, complaining about officiating (which, as a visiting team in Carolina, he almost certainly always has a right to do), picked up a technical, and UNC promptly went on a 21-1 run. What started as an 11-point deficit for the Terrapins quickly ballooned to 31.
Unsurprisingly, Maryland never really got back into the game, partially thanks to Mark Turgeon's decision to give walk-ons some burn, likely as a way to make a statement about effort. The final margin ended up being 88-64 thanks to another unneeded buzzer-beater (from a walk-on this time, though, so it's not a big deal), but the only real question over the final ten minutes was whether or not Maryland would cover the spread. (They didn't.)
I'll summarize this game in goods and bads. It shouldn't be a difficult task.
The good: Nick Faust was on his game, with 17 points on an efficient 7-11 from the floor with five boards and four assists. James Padgett, after a rough first half, looked good once he got back to his garbageman roots. Oh, and Maryland had two alley-oops. ... I think that's about it.
The bad: everything else. Literally everything. Let's start with shooting. Terrell Stoglin? 4-18 from the floor, couldn't buy a bucket. Sean Mosley? 1-9 from the floor (oh, and he had four turnovers). Actually, I'll simplify this: everyone not named Nick Faust or James Padgett shot 11-43 from the floor, good for 25%. No one escapes criticism in this one.
Rebounding? Gave up 15 offensive boards.
Ball control? 17 turnovers, ten more than UNC.
Forcing turnovers? Only one steal. Only seven turnovers by UNC.
Free throw shooting? 13-21 from the stripe, with four of those attempts coming from walk-ons. (Fan favorite Arnold Richmond, better known as Young Kobe? 2-2 from the stripe. So stick that in the positive column as well.)
It was, in short, a miserable performance in almost every aspect.
Hey, look at the bright side: Faust was genuinely very good tonight. He has star potential, he really does. I'm not sure when we'll see it fulfilled, but I'm very excited about a Faust-filled future, especially one in which he's off the ball and on the wing. I'm not sure he's ever going to be a pure fill-it-up type, but he'll be an efficient scorer who can average in the teens and be big in both rebounding and defense. He deserves as much hype as we've given him, and then some. Quick, someone come up with a nickname for him.
And I suppose I should mention that Alex Len had a few bright moments, including back-to-back buckets in the second half. But really, it's tough to find too much more to be happy with.
Which isn't to say that I'm particularly upset, either, at least not in the truest sense of the word. No matter your expectations, it's really hard to watch a team get beaten as thoroughly as Maryland did tonight. At the same time, though, remember the situation. It's North Carolina, a team as talented as any in the country, on the road. And Maryland, for all of their positive strides, did just lose to a greatly inferior Georgia Tech team in Atlanta over the weekend. This had to be expected, and that dulls the pain somewhat.
I'll say what I said about the Georgia Tech game: this didn't alter in any way what I think about Maryland's long-term stock. This only reinforced something we've known for a long time: Maryland isn't very good this year, they have a lot of holes, and they will lose some games by a very large margin.
I do draw two lessons from this, though. The first is all on Stoglin. This is his fourth straight really bad game in a row, and it's become clear that he isn't the same player he was earlier in the year. Some of it is the defense narrowing in on him, but half of his shots are bad ones anyway. They're not falling now, though, and if that continues Maryland's rebuilding project takes a big step back. I'm guessing it's just a slump, but even if that's all it is he'll drag Maryland's hopes through the valley with him: he needs to be taking double-digit shots every game, no matter whether they go in or not, and that means that cold streaks will kill Maryland.
As much as I hate to say it because I've been an Ashton Pankey defender for a long time now, it's getting harder to do. He's missing point-blank lay-ups that he used to hit, which tells me his touch is off. He's fouling out almost instantly. He can't hit free throws anymore. I never like to draw conclusions about attitude from so far away and will refrain from doing so, but smiling after fouling out - even if it was an ironic "Really, ref?" type of smile, which I suspect it was - is rarely a good sign. I still think he catches more hate than he deserves, especially because he wasn't all that bad when matched up with Tyler Zeller (relatively speaking, of course), but much like Stoglin he's had a really bad run of games and it's tough not to notice it.
And a quick note on officiating: it's Carolina on the road. You're not going to get a lot of favorable calls in that atmosphere. I do have some qualms - Zeller going to the line more times than Maryland did as a team is a joke - but let's be honest: this wasn't the deciding factor, or necessarily even a deciding factor. It made a minimal impact, but with so much else to actually discuss there's no reason to talk about it any more than I'm doing here.
More later. But this was 1000 more words about this game than I wanted to write. Hopefully Senior Night against UVA isn't so bad, but I'm not feeling too great about that one right now either.