- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 23, 2003

The Maryland Terrapins found an early-season rollover in late February.
The No.13 Terps beat North Carolina 96-56 yesterday before 17,950 at Comcast Center. It was Maryland's biggest margin ever over North Carolina and the latter's worst loss in ACC play. Maryland fans chanted "NIT, NIT" at North Carolina, but the Tar Heels (14-12, 4-8 ACC) may not even get invited to that secondary postseason tournament.
Maryland (17-7, 9-4) thoroughly embarrassed North Carolina. The Terps couldn't even muster postgame bravado, trying not to further humiliate their rival. Coach Gary Williams told players at halftime that this wasn't one of the great Carolina teams of the past. Indeed, the Tar Heels may finish with only one ACC road win.
"They're a very beatable team," guard Drew Nicholas said. "You can't take a look at the name across the chest. I think a lot of teams do that to Duke. They go into Cameron [Indoor Stadium] and look across their chests and then the game's done."
Maybe Carolina players will feel that sense of awe about Maryland next season after losing four straight to the Terps for the first time since 1932. Maryland outrebounded Carolina 48-32, outshot the Tar Heels from the field 58 percent to 32.8 percent and had 14 steals and nine blocks.
"This excites us a lot," center Ryan Randle said. "It gets us motivated for the tournaments."
Clemson invades Tuesday for the Terps' final home game. Maryland then travels to N.C. State on March2 and Virginia on March 9 seeking the top seed for the ACC tournament. Maryland trails Wake Forest (18-4, 8-3) for the conference lead.
Point guard Steve Blake pledged to become the offensive leader in the final weeks. The senior ended Carolina's mild second-half comeback with a 3-pointer. He finished with a team-high 21 points while making all four 3-pointers, plus contributing eight assists.
"Blake is just cold-blooded," Tar Heels coach Matt Doherty said. "He hit that 3 … it's like he's playing with you a little bit."
Nicholas added 17 points and seven assists while Randle scored 16 points with seven rebounds. Oddly, forward Tahj Holden was scoreless with five blocks after getting a career-high 18 points in Wednesday's 75-70 loss at Duke. Guard Melvin Scott led North Carolina with 12 points while taking 10 3-point shots.
Maryland led 45-32 at halftime after a late 9-1 run. The teams traded scores 22 times before Maryland's seven unanswered points for a 45-30 lead was the only stretch when either team scored more than two straight baskets. Maryland struggled for offensive rhythm in the opening minutes, though the defense was sparkling.
"I thought we didn't have our legs and were a little lethargic," Williams said. "Nothing looked smooth in the first half. The second half, all of a sudden we came out and we have our legs and that ball's flying around out there. We were two different teams."
But North Carolina's 8-2 second-half start cut Maryland's lead to 47-40 with 17:17 remaining. Blake then sank a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired that started a 29-9 Maryland streak. Essentially, Blake's basket ended the game.
"Steve senses they're making a run," Williams said. "He just seems to shoot better when we need them. I've seen him miss open shots when we're up by 15, but he doesn't miss many big ones. He was criticized a little bit after the Duke game and he came back and threw it in everybody's face."
The Terps used all 13 players, with 11 scoring, and none of the starters played more than 29 minutes. The reserves played much of the final 13 minutes and dominated underneath.
North Carolina played little defense and went more than five minutes without scoring to trail by 29 with 6:45 left. The Tar Heels then followed with just one free throw over another five-minute span.
"Once we started getting on a run, we knew the game was over," Blake said. "It was just going out there and having fun. Beating anybody by 40 makes you happy."


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