No. 1 Goes Down!

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Tyler Hansbrough caught the ball a few feet behind the top of the arc and the final 1.7 seconds began to tick off the clock. He took one dribble in and hastily lined up the shot that would keep North Carolina undefeated and keep Maryland from emphatically defining its tumultuous season.

The final buzzer sounded with the ball in midair. It must have seemed like an eternity for Maryland's players to know if their 40 minutes of scrupulous effort paid off in any tangible way. When Hansbrough's shot finally came down, it hit the back of the iron and popped right back up, the bottom of the basket no longer in its reach.

The improbable upset of the No. 1 team was complete, the 82-80 final sure to be highlighted in Maryland's record books. The 21,033 stunned fans in light blue will soon enough forget about it, hurriedly filing out of the Dean Dome not bearing to look up at the scoreboards all around them.

It was Maryland coach Gary Williams' seventh win against a No. 1 team, most among active coaches. But there was something about this one that made it unique. Never in his 19 years has a month stretch brought such a crippling low and a euphoric high.

"My job is to win as many games as I can this year," Williams said after the game, his excitement so palpable his hands shook slightly. "I came in here thinking we could win this game. We had to do a lot of things right but that's what I'm supposed to do, get the team ready to play."

It was evident early on that Maryland (12-7, 2-2) was ready and that Williams had devised specific plans to contain North Carolina's strengths. In the first half, Maryland established a modest lead and held off any sustained Tar Heel runs. When North Carolina (18-1, 3-1) scored nine unanswered point to erase and overtake Maryland's 17-11 lead, the Terps went on their own 10-2 run.

They played with more intensity than the Tar Heels, who struggled to contain a Maryland offense that had been average at best for much of the season. On the other hand, Maryland's consistently strong defense held North Carolina to 35 first half points, its second-lowest output of the season.

"We didn't respect them as much as we should have and they came out hitting a lot more shots than we expected," North Carolina guard Danny Green said.

Hansbrough, who came in to the game shooting 61.9 percent from the field at home, hit just 1-of-7 shots in the first half. Williams rotated several defenders on the All-American, starting with Bambale Osby and at different times Braxton Dupree, Shane Walker and even Dave Neal. Landon Milbourne collapsed on Hansbrough when he got the ball until the man Milbourne left open, Marcus Ginyard, hit two three-pointers.

"I don't know what defense there is to stop," Hansbrough's versatility, Williams said. "So we really worked on trying to not let him get the angle. In other words, if we had to, let him catch the ball, but stay between him and the basket."

Said Walker, who guarded Hansbrough with Osby on the bench: "You just had to be intense. If you weren't intense he was going to do what he normally does."

Meanwhile, James Gist had his most complete first half of the season. Most of his 13 points and nine rebounds going into halftime came over and around Hansbrough, sending a message to the rest of the team that the undefeated Tar Heels were not unbeatable.

Also helping the cause was the return of Eric Hayes, who had been sidelined with an ankle injury. Williams said yesterday before practice that it would take a "miracle" for Hayes to play today, but he entered with 11:18 left in the first half and a three-pointer less than three minutes later.

"I think Eric Hayes coming back, whatever he did on the floor, just having him back meant a lot to our players," Williams said.

Maryland's lead ballooned to nine points when Milbourne hit a three-pointer to open the second half. The Terps led 52-41 with 15:29 left in the second half before the inevitable North Carolina comeback began.

A 10-2 run got the Tar Heels within two, but they couldn't pull away. Maryland had the answer for every North Carolina bucket down the stretch, and every time the crowd would be at their loudest, a Maryland score would quiet them down. A Deon Thompson put back, an Osby lay in. Thompson for another two points, Gist hits a hook shot. Back and forth.

Even when North Carolina led by four point with 2:29 left and seemed on the verge of putting the game away, Maryland came back with six straight points.

"At the end we just relaxed," said Greivis Vasquez, who finished with 12 points and 11 assists.

Relaxed? Indeed, it was that way—the entire game. Even with a steady rotation of freshmen, especially in the backcourt with Adrian Bowie and Cliff Tucker, Maryland committed just 10 turnovers.

But that would have meant little if Maryland didn't respond to Hansbrough's game-tying lay up with 51 seconds left.

So Vasquez, smothered the whole game by Tywon Lawson, did what he did all game: pound the ball to Osby. Green was guarding Osby on a switch and fell down, leaving a simple left-handed lay up to put Maryland up—for good.

"You never understand how a season can go," said Gist, who finished with a game-high 22 points and asserted himself as the go-to guy on the team. "Right now we're just starting to realize that we can play with the best teams in the country."

Said Vasquez: "This is just a game I will never forget. Again, we got so many doubters at Maryland. Unlike all the fans and the newspapers, we won. We proved everybody wrong. We can be good, this is not enough. We can be really good."


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