Previewing Maryland

Thursday's matchup is the first of three conference games in a mere six days for the Tar Heels. And wins in College Park have never come easy for Carolina, as they've lost six of their last eight games at Maryland. This nationally televised game on ESPN will tip-off at 7 p.m.

North Carolina (12-5, 3-3) vs. Maryland (14-5, 4-2)
College Park, Md. -- Comcast Center
Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN-HD (Mike Patrick, Len Elmore)

Season To Date: The Terps have proven themselves to be a solid team, with a 4-2 ACC record and wins of note over Arkansas, Boston College and Wake Forest. But are they an NCAA Tournament team? That's yet to be decided, and the recent loss of their top perimeter scorer and defender won't help. The announcement last week that senior Chris McCray would be ineligible the rest of the season was a tough break, considering he was averaging 15.2 points and 2.2 steals. "We've had to make adjustments, but it's just something we have to do," coach Gary Williams commented, adding that McCray's loss hurts more from a defensive standpoint. "McCray was a great defensive guard and that's affected our defense." Since losing McCray, the Terps won at Georgia Tech and then lost in a poor defensive effort at Temple on Saturday.

Star Watch: Nik Caner-Medley has played some of the best basketball of his career the last week and it's no coincidence that it's been since the departure of McCray. "He has stepped it up since we lost McCray," Williams said. "I think Nik is starting to realize how good he can be when he looks after every part of his game. He's just picked up the level of his game." In the last two games, Caner-Medley is averaging 31.5 pts and 9.5 rebounds in 38.5 minutes of play. His shooting numbers have also been impressive - 56% FG, 55% 3pt and 84% FT (27-32).

Keep An Eye Out For ...: Mike Jones. The junior -- and former McDonald's High School All-American -- seemingly has been waiting in the wings since arriving in College Park. An athletic shooting guard with terrific range, his performance against Temple (7 three-pointers) may be a sign of things to come. "He's been ready to step in there," Williams said. "We've had good guards in front of him and now he's getting a chance to start. He's getting better with his ball handling and defense and he's always been able to shoot - when he's open, he's made those shots in his first two games as a starter." Jones has hit 9-of-14 on three-point attempts (64%) in those two games.

Projected Starters:
 5 D.J. Strawberry (6-5, 201, Jr.) – 9.8 ppg, 4.4 apg
23 Mike Jones (6-5, 204, Jr.) – 8.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg
22 Nik Caner-Medley (6-8, 240, Sr.) – 15.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg
25 Ekene Ibekwe (6-9, 220, Jr.) – 11.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg
15 James Gist (6-8, 223, So.) - 8.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg

Key Reserves:
30 Travis Garrison (6-8, 241, Sr.) – 9.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg
 2 Parrish Brown (6-1, 175, Jr.) - 2.5 ppg
14 Will Bowers (7-1, 262, Jr.) – 2.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg
14 Sterling Ledbetter (6-4, 198, Sr.) – 1.9 ppg

Series History: The Tar Heels lead the series with Maryland, 111-53. Carolina has won four of the last five in the series, but Maryland has won five of the last nine. Last season, the Tar Heels beat Maryland 109-75 on Jan. 8, 2005, in Chapel Hill and 85-83 on Feb. 27, 2005, in College Park. Carolina is 44-33 against Maryland in games played in College Park. The Tar Heels are 1-2 in their three previous visits to the Comcast Center. UNC has lost three of its last four games in College Park, losing three in a row before winning there last year. Carolina hasn't won back-to-back games at Maryland since the 1996 and '97 seasons. The Tar Heels went 29-19 against Maryland in Cole Field House. (by UNC Athletic Communications)

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Strawberry ... Caner-Medley

Ibekwe ... Gist

Jones ... Garrison

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