If you were looking for a game that epitomized the definition of a total team effort, You wouldn’t go wrong pointing to tonight’s 85-59 dismantling of the North Carolina Tar Heels by the Maryland Terrapins. Just about three weeks ago, the Tar Heels had managed to squeak out a 60-57 win in Chapel Hill in the Terps first ACC road game and if tonight game had an element of payback for Maryland, consider it paid in full.
When North Carolina scored the first basket following a missed Maryland three pointer, it gave them one of their two leads for the game. After a Tianna Hawkins jumper tied the game at two, Alyssa Thomas took over grabbing a rebound and assisting on two fast break layups, one by Chloe Pavlech followed quickly by Alicia DeVaughn’s first bucket. After taking the 6-2 lead, things got a little sloppy for the Terps as they turned the ball over on their next three possessions allowing UNC to tie the game. Though Maryland would turn the ball over 11 times in the half, it didn’t provide any real advantage for Carolina. Few of Maryland’s errors came off the UNC press and the Heels seemed intent on matching the Terps turnover for turnover. Following Pavlech’s three pointer, Maryland took a 9-8 lead into the first media time out. Coming out of the break, the Terrapins stretched the lead to 17-10 but an 8-0 Tar Heel run put the visitors ahead for the last time in the game. A runner in the lane by Pavlech with the shot clock winding down , followed by her second three point jumper of the night ignited a nine to nothing Maryland response pushing the Terrapin lead back to eight. The Terps were up 26-20 with 5:14 remaining in the half when a Carolina player undercut Alyssa Thomas as both were going after a loose ball. Thomas landed hard and lay on the floor for several minutes as the crowd of just over 4,800 watched in silence before breaking into applause to urge Maryland’s star forward to get up. Although she walked off the court under her own power, Maryland fans had cause for concern watching her grimace as she made her way to the Terrapin locker room. While Thomas was MIA, Maryland still widened the lead to seven thanks to a free throw and a layup from Katie Rutan. Thomas returned to the court and re-entered the game to a standing ovation with 2:28 left in the half and with their star back on the floor the Terps closed the half on a 10-3 run to go into the locker room leading 37-25. Maryland shot a remarkable 65% for the half while holding Carolina to 35.5% including an 0 for 8 bagel from behind the arc. UNC managed to hold its own on the boards with the Terps securing only a single rebound advantage.
Carolina trailed Maryland at the half in the game in Chapel Hill and came out in the second half playing a physical and aggressive brand of basketball that seemed to shake the young Terps. Tonight, they were prepared and gave every bit as good as they got maintaining their halftime margin through the first four and a half minutes when the Carolina bench was called for a technical foul. If the purpose was to light a fire under the Tar Heels, it not only failed to do so but had the opposite effect. Thomas made both free throws and Tianna Hawkins put back an offensive rebound and the home team led by seventeen. The Terps continued to play stifling defense and efficient offense and a three point jumper by Rutan followed by a traditional three point play from Thomas gave Maryland a 19 point advantage. When Hawkins followed that with another offensive rebound and put back, the lead cracked the twenty point barrier for the first time with just under 13 minutes remaining. UNC continued their efforts to press on defense and to play physically with Maryland and the Terps continued to swat it aside and extend their lead. Freshman Malina Howard gave the Terps solid minutes by clogging the middle on defense, grabbing some key rebounds and making herself available as an outlet against the press. In addition to her three point shot, Rutan was active on the boards, drew a charge (one of her specialties) and made several great hustle plays. Though she didn’t score, Sequoia Austin came off the bench to give Pavlech some much needed breaks and managed her time on the floor well. And I’m not forgetting about the volleyball star, Caitlin Adams. When Alicia DeVaughn fouled out with 1:41 remaining, Adams came off the bench to a great roar from the crowd. When she pulled down a rebound with thirty-four seconds left, the crowd erupted again and when Katie Rutan found her open under the basket for a layup with ten seconds remaining, the Comcast Center erupted.
Maryland couldn’t keep up their torrid first half shooting but the Terps did shoot over 50% for the half and finished the game having made 58% of their baskets. Carolina matched their first half shooting with an identical 11 for 31 in the second half. They did manage to make one of their 11 three point attempts (a bank shot from the top of the circle) to finish the game one for nineteen. The best rebounding team in the country out rebounded the Heels by nine 40-31. Individually, Tianna Hawkins led all scorers with 25. She was joined in double figures by Pavlech’s 18, Thomas’s 17 and ten from Katie Rutan. Thomas added 10 rebounds and 8 assists again falling just short of her second triple double of the season.
The Terps travel to Clemson to take on the Tigers on Sunday before returning home for a 2:00pm match up with Boston College on Super Bowl Sunday.