The No. 2 Maryland men's basketball team took its first loss of the season on Tuesday night, falling 89-81 to North Carolina on a back-and-forth night that saw elite individual efforts from both sides.
Melo Trimble led Maryland with 23 points and 12 assists in one of the great games of his college career. Rasheed Sulaimon, in his best showing yet at Maryland, added 18. North Carolina point guard Marcus Paige shined in his first game of the season with his own 20-and-5 line, countering Trimble and powering the Tar Heels to a win at the Dean Smith Center.
The loss leaves Maryland at 6-1, and probably in line for a slight dip in national polls next week. The Terps return home to face Saint Francis (Pa.) on Friday night.
Maryland struggled through a turnover-infested first half, in which the Terps coughed up the ball a full 13 times to the Tar Heels. That Maryland managed to get into halftime down just 41-35, against the backdrop, was fortunate, but the Terps got pairs of 3-pointers from Jared Nickens and Sulaimon to keep them close and set up a competitive ending.
The game got really fun once the second half started. Maryland charged back to even the score at 53 on a Sulaimon triple before the half's first media timeout, and the game's pace started to pick up. Maryland and North Carolina traded blow after blow in prefacing a frenetic finish. Trimble and Paige hit each other back and forth, and the game sped into a title bout. Trimble was ridiculous:
Down the stretch, though, Maryland's offense went cold. Carolina's didn't, and the Tar Heels managed to pull away. Maryland didn't make enough of its open shots to climb back after falling into a hole.
Three things to know
1. Maryland's struggles made its upside obvious. The Terps were exceptionally flat in the first half – against a top-10 team, on the road, in one of the sport's toughest venues. They managed to stay within two scores and ultimately come back to level in the second half. That's impressive.
2. The point guard matchup was something to see. How about Trimble and Paige? Both will be in the NBA soon, and they showed why on Tuesday night. Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, Paige with 20 and 5. But their games were more fun even than that. They seemed to be matching each other step for step, and a good basketball crowd at the Dean Dome ate it all up. What a couple of players they are.
3. But, really, about those turnovers. Maryland finished with 21 of them. That's not ordinarily going to work. The Terps need to tighten up in that regard before Big Ten play gets churning in the winter.