Well, it's all but official: Maryland's at-large NCAA candidacy is over. Terrell Stoglin scored a game-high 28 points and Jordan Williams had 16 points with 19 rebounds, but North Carolina had 61 points from Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, and Leslie McDonald to defeat the Terrapins in a near-must-win for Maryland, 87-76.
Maryland played the Tar Heels close for the majority of the first half, but UNC pulled away late in the half to take a 12 point lead into the break. Maryland broke the lead back down to single digits after the under-16 timeout, but North Carolina answered with a run of their own, bringing the lead back to as high as 17. The Terrapins never went away and were able to get the lead back to single-digits with about two minutes left, but never got closer than 8.
It's worth emphasizing what an amazing game both Stoglin and Williams played. Those stats don't lie; both were fantastic. Williams was limited offensively and sometimes attempted to do too much, but ultimately I have few qualms with the game he played. Stoglin, meanwhile, was nothing short of fantastic.
When you get two great performances, like Maryland did tonight from Stoglin and Williams, yet still never really have a chance, it's obvious there wasn't much production from elsewhere. Outside of Stoglin and Williams, no Terrapin scored more than 8 points or grabbed more than 6 rebounds. Nearly all of Maryland's production came from those two players. That's a pretty accurate summation of the entire season, particularly as it relates to the upperclassmen.
You probably watched more of the game than I did - if you didn't know, I missed the first 15 minutes or so - so I'll keep my thoughts short. Obviously, there were two really big detractors aside from the lack of balance, one well-known and one relatively new: outside shooting (well-known) and rebounding (pretty new).
Maryland's known for quite some time now that outside shooting was one of the team's biggest weaknesses. They shot it well against Florida State last time out, but shot just 2-12 from 3 tonight, both coming in the second half. They were outscored 24-6 from beyond the arc, and that's a tough deficit to make up.
It's harder when you don't rebound. Maryland has rebounded very well this year, but they certainly didn't tonight. UNC won the rebounding fight by a large margin in the first half, especially on the offensive end (something like 14 to 6), including an insane five-chance possession. Things got better in the second half, but Maryland was operating at a pretty distinct size disadvantage, and it was obvious. Sometimes they can overcome it, and sometimes - like tonight - not.
Normally, this loss wouldn't hurt so much, but the fact of the matter is that barring an ACC tournament run, this team is NIT-bound. Maryland hasn't been there in the past few seasons, so from a fan's perspective, it's not a lot of fun. It's enough to say some things that aren't exactly accurate of the way the team played today.
All things told, what I saw was disappointing, but not exactly unexpected or worth getting upset over. Maryland was significantly outclassed from a talent perspective, and it showed. What's more, they had nil in the way of senior leadership. This is a young team with two or three ACC-level talents, and it's led by a sophomore (Williams) and a freshman (Stoglin). This is not the game they're supposed to win.
What was impressive was that they stuck around for as long as they did. It would've been very easy to give up on the game - plenty of the fans did - but the Terrapins never really went away. They continued to make little runs at the lead, chipping away slowly, and it was admirable. UNC happened to answer with larger and larger runs of their own, but hey - heart is a good thing, especially with a team as young as this.
Speaking of youth: I think we can officially say that Stoglin has arrived. He's for real, and each game he plays validates himself more and more. As mentioned above, he had a game-leading 28 points on 11-20 shooting, many of those spectacular shots. It's becoming cliche to say this about him, but he just has a nose for the basket, knows how to score, and is natural at it. When/if he ever learns shot selection - he still tends to take a few questionable shots - he'll be extremely dangerous. He's a budding conference star.
Elsewhere, there's little to be had in the way of individual accolades. Given how little of the game I saw, relatively speaking, I'll avoid going too deep into any critiques, but I'll say this: Cliff Tucker has done a lot of good over his four years, but he's still ultimately been a disappointment. I don't mean to criticize him, but to observe: he's not a great shooter, he hasn't scored particularly well, he single-handedly destroyed at least two fast breaks, and had no outstanding stat. It's been that way for much of the year. I feel bad for him and worse for having to say it, but it can't really be ignored.
I feel like there should be some profound ending to this post, but I'm exhausted and am coming up short. We may have more later, but for now, just dream of a future in which the ACC is dominated by the dynamic trio of Stoglin, Williams, and Faust.