"I would like to save a bunch of those points and use them later," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "I'm extremely impressed with my team."
With those days seemingly safely in the past now, Rashad McCants led seven Tar Heels in double-figures with 19 points, as UNC (13-1, 2-0 ACC) took another step in demonstrating just how far the program has come since then, while reemphasizing its intentions to once again rule the toughest conference in the country.
"Champions aren't born," McCants said. "You have to prepare to be a champion, so that's what we're going to do day in and day out."
The reigning ACC Tournament champs may have been picked to finish sixth in the conference by its sportswriters at the beginning of this season, but Maryland (9-3, 2-1) stormed out of the gate and stunned the Tar Heels for the game's first 11 minutes. And the Terps weren't slowing things down a bit either.
Those who thought the Tar Heels were going to storm through the ACC as easily as it cut through its non-conference preseason slate, were served up a early helping of reality.
In a game unlike any UNC had faced during its previous 12-game winning streak, Carolina trailed the Terps, 29-24, with 9:08 remaining in the first half.
Then, "poof," that Maryland squad – a fiery blend of tireless and physical defenders, as well as confident and deft scorers – disappeared. In its place emerged a tentative, confused team about to chase a major deficit amidst 21,750 unfriendly observers.
"They did a great job in the beginning trying to run with us, but Coach just told us, ‘Keep running. Eventually, they'll break,'" said Sean May, who finished with 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
With McCants on an extended bench break – subjugated by an angered coach for a couple of less than heady plays, sophomore Reyshawn Terry provided a spark with five quick points off the bench. When McCants returned, the Tar Heels went on to wrap up a 23-3 assault just before halftime, to lead 47-34 at the break.
"I was disappointed with Rashad and Melvin [Scott] at that time," Roy Williams said. "We had energy, but we weren't slowing Gilchrist down and they were getting open shots. I got all over Rashad and Melvin, and I loved the way they came back.
"After that stretch, I thought we were really good. I thought we were able to keep the pressure on them by running up and down and using their depth. We started playing the way we practice, by sharing the ball and trying to attack them with more than one guy."
The Tar Heels shot 58.1 percent for the half and 56.5 percent for the game, including 10 of 20 shooting from three-point range. Seven different players converted at least one field goal from beyond the arc.
"They're a good shooting team," Terps coach Gary Williams said. "You can't just shut one person down, but I think we can play better defense."
Along with 11 points by Terry and 12 by Marvin Williams, the Carolina bench scored 41 points.
"Our depth was a huge factor in the game," Roy Williams said. "It looked like Maryland was dragging a little bit."
A pumped up McCants came out in the second half to spur UNC to a 21-point lead. Then a three-pointer by Jawad Williams made the score 69-45 at the first TV timeout of the second half.
By the time UNC's victory cigar – reserve C.J. Hooker – entered the game, Carolina had a 40-point lead with the clock ticking down on its fifth 100-plus point outing of the year.
The Tar Heels, which have started league play 2-0 for the first time since the 2000-01 season, host No. 9 Georgia Tech Wednesday at 7 p.m., before traveling to Wake Forest next Saturday.
"The ACC is no picnic," Roy Williams said. "There's always another day in this league.