- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

Gary Williams was red-faced as he stormed off the court at halftime of Maryland’s game at North Carolina yesterday. The Terrapins’ coach let his team know exactly how he felt about their lackluster performance in the first half in a talk that surely rocked the tiny locker room at Dean Smith Center.

“Discussion?” Williams said of his halftime talk. “There wasn’t a discussion. It was a one-way conversation about how we represent a great program that won a national championship a few years ago. We’ve been to the Final Four. All those things came up, and the point was what went on in the first half was not right.”

The Terps responded to Williams’ chiding with a spirited comeback in the second half before falling 97-86 before a raucous crowd of 21,750. Maryland managed to cut a 22-point deficit to three late in the game but ultimately was unable to recover from its horrific start.

“I was upset,” Williams said. “They were all intensity things. They were not really X’s and O’s. If you are not willing to do that at this level you are not going to beat many teams because everybody plays hard.”

North Carolina scored 55 points — the most allowed by Maryland in a half this season — and led by 20 at the break. When the 14th-ranked Tar Heels were not pounding the ball inside for easy baskets, they were zipping by the flat-footed Terps for breakaway layups or scoring from the foul line. Four North Carolina players were in double figures by halftime as the Tar Heels outrebounded Maryland 30-16 and made 17 of 23 free throws.

Maryland shot 30 percent in the half, while North Carolina sank a blistering 58.1 percent. North Carolina came out the aggressor, crushing the Terps’ transition defense. Jackie Manuel, who averaged 6.5 points coming into the game, had 12 points before the break mainly on breakaways.

“They were just catching the ball and tossing it up court, and we just weren’t getting back the way we should have,” Maryland center Jamar Smith said. “I don’t know why. We just weren’t ready to play.”

Rashad McCants led North Carolina with 25 points. Unheralded power forward Jawad Williams was a surprisingly physical inside force with 23 points and teammate Sean May provided 14 points and 12 rebounds despite foul trouble. The Tar Heels (15-7, 5-6 ACC) moved into a tie with Florida State for fifth in the league.

Meanwhile, the Terps (13-8, 4-6) had a two-game winning streak snapped, dropped into seventh place and know their NCAA tournament fate will be determined in their final six regular-season games and the ACC tournament. Maryland shooting guard Chris McCray was one of the few bright spots as he matched a career-high with 16 points, including 14 in the second half.

Maryland fell behind by 22 points on McCants’ easy layup on the first possession of the second half. But the Terps, who took advantage of the Tar Heels’ sloppy ballhandling (22 turnovers), went on a 31-15 run to cut North Carolina’s lead to 82-79 on John Gilchrist’s 3-pointer with 4:53 remaining.

McCants answered on the ensuing possession with an open 3-pointer which bounced around the rim before finally dropping. May grabbed a loose ball on Maryland’s next possession and Melvin Scott finished the break with a circus layup to give the Tar Heels an 87-79 lead.

Maryland’s D.J. Strawberry made two free throws and then the Terps cut the lead to 87-83 on a putback by Ekene Ibekwe with 3:07 left. But the Tar Heels scored the next five points, including a 3-pointer off the glass by McCants to extend the lead to 92-83 with 2:03 remaining. The 3-pointer was especially painful because Smith deflected a pass to McCants, who barely beat the shot clock.

“We could’ve had that ball before McCants put it up,” Gary Williams said. “I thought we had a chance to win the game with maybe 3:10 left. We were only down four. We didn’t do a good job with our offense in that situation. We took a couple bad shots. We could have got better shots. And we paid the price.”

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