- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2001


Maryland came into last night's game with North Carolina intent to prove it warranted all the preseason hype about a consensus top 10 team and a national title contender.

The No. 14 Terps were primed to make a statement against the ninth-ranked Tar Heels at a packed Cole Field House.

But instead of proving it could compete with the country's best, Maryland only showed it could fade fast in the second half. The Terps watched helplessly as a four-point halftime lead turned into a 19-point second-half deficit. Only a desperate comeback kept the score respectable as Maryland fell 86-83 before 14,500.

"We didn't play with the same intensity we did in the first half," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, at a loss to explain the continuous run of uncontested shots. "Against Carolina, you can't play like that for 10 minutes and expect to win. The game was lost right there."

Shooting guard Joseph Forte led the Tar Heels (12-2, 3-0 ACC) with 26 points 20 in the second half as North Carolina shot 54 percent in the second half and made 6 of 10 3-pointers. Small forward Jason Capel added 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Tar Heels won their ninth straight as point guard Ronald Curry (11 points, seven assists) hurt Maryland by breaking the press and setting up his teammates.

The Terps' strategy was to sag off Curry in an effort to offset their size disadvantage down low. But the plan backfired in the second half with Curry running the attack and the Tar Heel's huge front line of 7-footer Brendan Haywood (8 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks) and 6-11 power forward Kris Lang (12 points, eight rebounds) taking its toll against Lonny Baxter, the Terps' top inside threat, who fouled out.

The Terps (11-4, 2-1) had their 10-game winning streak snapped and also saw their 13-game home winning streak end. Juan Dixon had 22 points, Terence Morris added 21 and Baxter 20. But the Terps, who looked ready for prime time in the first half, quickly faded under the glaring lights of national television and are now 0-3 against ranked opponents this season following their first home loss to North Carolina in four seasons.

"We had problems early," said Dixon, of the three-game losing streak back in November. "We thought we fixed them. We have to be dogs out there. We have to maintain our intensity. We didn't play defense. We gave up uncontested shots."

North Carolina used a paralyzing 22-6 run, including the period's first nine points, to start their domination of the second half as it routinely beat Maryland down the floor. The Tar Heels made five of their first six 3-pointers.

North Carolina also was dominant on the boards as it pulled away. On one play, it had five shots before Haywood scored and was fouled. He missed the free throw, and the Tar Heels cashed in on another Haywood putback to make it 64-49.

Meanwhile, the Terps went through their coldest shooting stretch off the season, missing open shots when they had them.

"We don't have any answers why we couldn't come out in the second half like we did in the first half," said Terps small forward Byron Mouton, whose club shot a paltry 32-percent in the second half. "We missed too many close shots five, six footers and layups. Right now, we are just trying to put two halves together."

A 3-pointer by Forte cut the Terps lead to one. After Morris missed a difficult layup, Capel buried a trey from the right wing to give the Tar Heels the lead for good at 38-36 less than 90 seconds into the half. Lang converted a traditional 3-point play on North Carolina's next possession to make it a five-point margin.

The Tar Heels continued to pull away. An eight-point run gave the visitors a 54-42 lead on a 3-pointer by Capel. North Carolina built the lead all the way to 71-52 on a Lang free throw with 8:14 remaining after it continually beat the Terps down the floor for easy scores.

Maryland did mount a furious late rally with a 25-9 run to nearly steal the game. A 3-point play by Dixon and Mouton's short jumper cut the lead to 80-77 with 27 seconds left. But Forte, from DeMatha High, made four consecutive free throws to ice the win.

The Terps led 36-32 by scoring the final five points in a frenetic, up-and-down first half. Morris exploited Haywood with a quick dribble drive around the slow-footed 7-footer to give Maryland a one-point edge. Morris also buried a 3-pointer from 23-feet with 38 seconds left to give the Terps a four-point advantage at the break.

Maryland took advantage of Baxter's quickness down low before the break, and the 6-8 center was able to work his way around defenders for 13 points in the period. The Terps did a nice job of help defense, shutting down Haywood to two points on 1 of 5 shooting with a quick double team as soon as he touched the ball.

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