- Associated Press - Sunday, February 27, 2011

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. | Tyler Zeller scored 25 points while freshman Harrison Barnes had 21 to help No. 19 North Carolina beat Maryland 87-76 on Sunday night, pulling the Tar Heels into a tie with Duke atop the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Leslie McDonald added 15 points off the bench to break out of a recent shooting slump for the Tar Heels (22-6, 12-2), who led the entire night for their 15th win in 17 games. John Henson added 10 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots as they made up for a shaky shooting night with a balanced scoring effort to go with a strong showing on the boards.

Freshman Terrell Stoglin scored a season-high 28 points to lead the Terrapins (18-11, 7-7), while Jordan Williams had 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds before fouling out in the final minute. They got almost no help from their teammates, though, who combined for 32 points on 11-for-37 shooting.

Duke’s loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday night gave the Tar Heels a chance to finally catch up in the league standings after sitting behind the reigning national champion Blue Devils since a 79-73 loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium earlier this month.

Now, a year after that ugly 17-loss season, the Tar Heels head into this week with a chance to win the ACC regular-season title. North Carolina travels to Florida State — sitting in third in the league — on Wednesday night before hosting the Blue Devils on Saturday night in a game that likely will determine the top seed in the ACC tournament.

The Tar Heels led by a dozen at halftime and never let the Terrapins seriously threaten.

Maryland closed within seven points before the Tar Heels ran off a 14-4 spurt, which included Kendall Marshall saving a ball by throwing it between Zeller’s legs to Dexter Strickland, who found Barnes ahead for a layup midway through the second half.

Then, after jumpers from Barnes and Justin Knox, Zeller capped the run with a hook shot over Williams, followed by a transition layup off a perfect pass from Marshall to make it 68-51 with 10:35 left.

Meanwhile, the Terrapins went cold at just the wrong time, going more than 4 minutes without a basket and committing a pair of turnovers that the Tar Heels converted into scores.

Maryland got no closer than eight points the rest of the night.

Zeller made 10 of 16 shots while joining with Henson to keep plenty of pressure on Williams inside. The Tar Heels also got strong floor games from their starting backcourt of Marshall (10 assists, six rebounds) and Strickland (career-best eight assists).

McDonald’s emergence certainly helped, too. He hit three 3-pointers and had as many field goals in this game (six) as he had in the past four games combined.

 

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