- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Roy Williams laughs at the notion that he purposely planned to have North Carolina playing its best basketball at the end of the season.

“I don’t know how to make my team peak and neither does anybody else,” Williams said with a knowing grin after the Tar Heels coasted past Maryland 79-68 Wednesday night. “I’m not smarter than the other guy. If I knew how to make my team peak, then so would they.”

Maybe so, but the Tar Heels have won a season-high six straight as they prepare to face Duke on Saturday night before heading into the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.

“They really have come a long way,” Williams said.

Yes, after losing their first two ACC games, the Tar Heels have bounced back in impressive fashion. They’ve clinched a first-round bye in the ACC tournament and could climb into a tie for second place with a victory against Duke.

“They should feel very good about what they’ve done, and hopefully they have a lot of games to play,” Williams said.

P.J. Hairston scored 22, Reggie Bullock had 19 points and 12 rebounds, and North Carolina (22-8, 12-5) never trailed after closing the first half with a 10-0 run to go up 34-27.

The Tar Heels have won six in a row against Maryland, including the ACC tournament last year.

“I’m really proud of them,” Williams said. “I’ve brought some really good teams in here. We won a national championship in ‘09 but we didn’t win here. I really liked the way our kids competed.”

Much has been said about North Carolina’s small lineup, but in this game, the 6-foot-7 Bullock and 6-5 Hairston were the difference.

“We’re having fun out there with the small lineup,” Bullock said. “Having P.J. in the lineup, he’s like my brother. He puts a smile on my face, and we feed off each other.”

The victory enabled North Carolina to solidify its hold on third place in the ACC, ahead of North Carolina State and Virginia.

“We’re getting better every game,” Bullock insisted. “Everybody is sharing the ball up front, and we’re talking on defense. We just have to keep doing that.”

James Michael McAdoo scored 10 for the Tar Heels, who went 10 for 24 from beyond the arc and outscored the Terrapins 19-11 at the foul line. North Carolina hasn’t lost since Feb. 13 at Duke and has won 12 of 15 in the ACC.

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