CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- For a few minutes late on Tuesday night, everything was falling into place for Maryland.
After a sloppy and sluggish first half which saw the Terps commit 13 turnovers, the tide had quickly turned.
Clawing their way back from a 12-point first half deficit, No. 2 Maryland took a 59-58 lead — their first of the night — as Melo Trimble capped off a dazzling four-point play, less than a minute after a devastating crossover and dish to Damonte Dodd that left Twitter — and the Dean Smith Center — abuzz.
But that one-point lead proved to be the Terps’ only lead of the night, a night where Maryland and North Carolina captured the attention of the sports world and saw their respective star guards rise to the occasion.
Behind an impressive season debut from senior Marcus Paige, No. 9 North Carolina held on to capture an 89-81 victory, in a game that will go down as one of the most-hyped and most entertaining in the rivalry between two storied programs.
Trimble — who scored nine of his game-high 23 points in the first eight minutes of the second half — finished with a career-high 12 assists and carried the Terps throughout a frenetic second half.
“Melo's a winner,” coach Mark Turgeon said of his sophomore guard, “and the guy’s incredible.”
“He was terrific. I thought he battled defensively, and played smart.”
Although it was Trimble’s second half that will ultimately dominate the headlines, an inconsistent first half that included four turnovers meant that the Terps needed to find production from elsewhere.
Cue Rasheed Sulaimon.
All too familiar with the intensity of college basketball on the Tobacco Road, Sulaimon received a loud chorus of boos from the Carolina faithful each time he touched the ball on Tuesday night.
The result? An 18-point performance and a steadying hand as a secondary ball handler.
“I think he thrived on it,” Turgeon said of the hostility that Sulaimon was subjected to from the opening introductions until the final buzzer.
“Melo and Rasheed were just warriors out there,” Turgeon said, adding that he believes his backcourt is the best in the country.
For a few minutes late on Tuesday night, it felt like the old days, when Maryland and Carolina were ACC foes, battling each year for conference and national title implications.
“That had the feel of an old school ACC tournament game,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.
“I miss having [Maryland] around…they’re a big-time basketball team.”
And while a few minutes can sometimes tell the entire story of the game as a whole, it took forty minutes on Tuesday night for Maryland and North Carolina to prove what the college basketball world had been wondering.
In a matchup that was billed as a potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown and a potential Final Four preview, it was the single game that both teams and fanbases have had circled on their calendars since it was announced in May. And while eight points separated the two teams on this night, a few months separate both teams from their ultimate season goal.
For a few minutes late on Tuesday night, Maryland and North Carolina played a game that felt a whole lot more like April 4th than it did December 2nd.