- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

GREENSBORO, N.C. Maryland's frontcourt disappeared again last night, along with the Terrapins' hopes of an ACC title and a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina eliminated No.14 Maryland 84-72 in the ACC quarterfinals before 23,745 at Greensboro Coliseum. The Tar Heels will meet Duke in today's semifinals.
NCAA defending champion Maryland can anticipate a fifth or sixth seed and a probable trip to the West Region when selections are announced tomorrow. The Terps' second straight loss was especially troubling because they defeated North Carolina by 15 and 40 points during the regular season, with the second blowout less than three weeks ago.
"We're down right now, but we'll be back next week," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "[The Tar Heels] seemed to up their confidence a bit. We gave them some confidence. We didn't respond very well when they made their run."
Maryland (19-9) hasn't won the ACC tournament since 1984, but this was its first opening-round loss since 1994. The Terps' beleaguered frontcourt caused the quick exit.
Center Ryan Randle played just 13 minutes because of foul trouble, finishing with one point and two rebounds. Forward Tahj Holden fouled out with six points and five rebounds after working underneath by himself. All told, Maryland was outrebounded 40-30.
Holden's sagging underneath also kept him from working his usual outside lanes, and that hampered the Terps' ball flow around the perimeter. North Carolina (17-14) seized upon Maryland's confusion for repeated turnovers, forced the Terps into bad shots and held them to few offensive rebounds.
Guard Drew Nicholas led Maryland with 18 points, while guard Steve Blake shook off a slow start to add 12.
On defense, Maryland often seemed a step slow while letting North Carolina convert 11 of 23 3-pointers, many of which were uncontested. Maryland turned sloppy, with four players getting at least four fouls. North Carolina simply feasted at the free throw line with forward Jawad Williams leading the Tar Heels with 25 points and guard Raymond Felton adding 20.
"We just had a hard time jumping in front of [Felton]," Nicholas said. "I thought we had a good mindset going in, but we didn't play with enough emotion."
However, Maryland led 40-36 at halftime despite getting little from its frontcourt. Randle didn't play the last 14:35 after drawing his second foul.
Maryland's defensive quickness compensated somewhat for lackluster early shooting. North Carolina couldn't get inside effectively, so the Tar Heels scored three straight 3-pointers to overcome an early 11-2 deficit and later hit more 3s to remain close.
North Carolina even briefly poked ahead at 33-32 before Nicholas scored five points. The mini-spree included a frightening fall after a layup that caused the senior to ask an official whether he was shooting a second free throw because he was not sure the first one had been good.
Maryland used several unusual lineups, including one with four reserves on the floor with 12 minutes left in the half. Freshman guard John Gilchrist played extensively to give the Terps an extra ballhandler to offset North Carolina's pressure defense.
The Terps might have trailed at the break if not for Nicholas' 15 first-half points and Gilchrist's seven.
Holden and Randle picked up their third fouls in the first 3:27 of the second half but remained on the floor as North Carolina opened with a 7-1 run for a 43-41 lead with 16 minutes remaining. Randle drew his fourth foul 55 seconds later, returned to the bench and missed seven minutes.
Maryland regrouped with seven straight points for a 48-43 lead with 12:48 remaining. North Carolina countered with a 13-4 run that included three 3-pointers for a 56-52 lead with 9:54 left.
The Tar Heels soon followed with a 10-0 streak to lead 66-55 with 7:34 remaining. Maryland went 5:35 without a basket before Holden scored on a layup with 4:09 to go with North Carolina ahead 68-56. The Terps couldn't come closer than eight points in the final minutes.

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