- The Washington Times - Friday, February 3, 2006

The Maryland basketball team lost the battle of the boards and its perfect home record in the process.

Plagued by shaky rebounding and poor shooting in the second half, the Terrapins stumbled to a 77-62 loss to North Carolina at Comcast Center that left Maryland questioning itself anew after a second straight loss.

The Terps (14-6, 4-3 ACC) were outrebounded 52-34 as the Tar Heels rallied from a two-point halftime deficit for an easy road win.

“They played harder than us in the second half,” junior point guard D.J. Strawberry said. “They wanted this game a lot more than we did, and I don’t know why that is. If a team comes out and just flat-out beats you and you played your best basketball, OK, we can accept that. Tonight we didn’t play our best basketball and they just played better than us.”

Maryland coach Gary Williams, who remained tied with Lefty Driesell atop the school’s career victories list with 348, said he was “disgusted” with the way the Terps competed against the youthful Tar Heels (13-5, 4-3).

The loss was far more troubling than Saturday’s setback at Temple, both in where it happened and how it came about. Maryland had won 14 straight at Comcast before last night and had emphasized the importance of defending its home court in league play.

Yet the Terps were sluggish in the second half and faded in the final six minutes as the Tar Heels pulled away.

Maryland had 19 defensive rebounds to Carolina’s 14 offensive rebounds.

“I didn’t think we played well enough on the defensive end of the court, and the rebounding was a big part of that,” Williams said.

“I was disappointed. I didn’t see the great effort like we usually put on here when we play a home game, so I’m disappointed in that.”

It is probably too early to deem any game a must-win for the Terps, though last night again provoked questions whether the Terps can make a sustained push toward the NCAA tournament. Maryland is 1-2 since the loss of senior guard Chris McCray to academic ineligibility, but have been in both losses well into the second half.

However, that doesn’t obscure the Terps’ defensive flaws. Maryland again struggled to defend the perimeter, surrendering nine 3-pointers, and the rebounding woes were especially apparent when North Carolina earned some second-chance baskets.

“We’re a good team, and it’s kind of sad, especially at this time during the season, we can’t pick it up night in and night out,” senior forward Travis Garrison said.

The problems weren’t contained to the defensive end. Williams wasn’t pleased with the Terps’ ability to run the offense even as they built a 40-38 halftime edge.

The Tar Heels, though, quickly took the lead and capitalized on a Maryland scoring drought of nearly four minutes.

Even after falling behind by nine, the Terps rallied to 57-54 and had a chance to tie. Instead, Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough picked Maryland’s Nik Caner-Medley and passed ahead to Reyshawn Terry (game-high 20 points) for a transition basket.

Freshman Danny Green made a 3-pointer on the next possession and the Terps quietly played out the final five minutes.

“We have to rely on our offense, not rely on just going one-on-one to get our shots,” Williams said. “I thought we broke down rather early tonight at times in our halfcourt offense. You can’t do that. You have to rely on what you practice.”

The Terps actually did a good job early of limiting Hansbrough, the freshman who leads the Tar Heels in scoring and rebounding. Maryland center Will Bowers made his first start of the season and made it difficult for Hansbrough to move around.

Hansbrough finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and eight turnovers, though much of his production came in the second half.

The Terps will see Hansbrough and the Tar Heels again Feb. 26 as part of their final nine games before the ACC tournament.

It is a stretch Maryland enters fraught with questions, and if last night provided any answers, they surely were not welcome.

“We know what we have to do,” Garrison said.

“We know how hard we have to play, especially against a team like North Carolina, especially in our house. They outworked us and we made a lot of mistakes, mistakes that we can’t let happen anymore, especially in the nine games we have left.”

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