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Maryland (16-6, 6-2 ACC) bolted out to a 32-16 lead barely 11 minutes in behind seven 3-pointers, but the Tar Heels (13-10, 2-6 ACC) closed the gap to four points before the Terrapins took a 44-34 lead into halftime. North Carolina would eventually cut its deficit to 52-49 with 15:23 remaining in regulation, but Maryland took control with a 32-12 run and never looked back.
The Terrapins led 92-67 with 1:18 to play before ultimately handing UNC its worst loss since beating the Tar Heels 96-56 in College Park on Feb. 22, 2003. Sunday's 21-point defeat marked the worst loss for a Roy Williams-coached team since Wake Forest blew out Kansas, 84-53, in Winston-Salem on Dec. 7, 2000.
Greivis Vasquez had 26 points and 11 assists for Maryland, while Eric Hayes added 16 points of 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. Fellow senior Landon Milbourne contributed 15 points, five rebounds, three steals and three blocked shots for the Terrapins.
Marcus Ginyard led North Carolina with 17 points, Deon Thompson added 16 and Ed Davis posted a double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds. But the Tar Heels could only manage a 37.7 shooting percentage (26-of-69) while allowing Maryland to knock down 51.5 percent of its field goal attempts, including a 12-of-23 mark from long range.
North Carolina outrebounded the Terrapins, 40-39.
It was the sixth loss in seven games for the Tar Heels, marking their worst streak since 2002. Maryland has now won four of its last five games against North Carolina.
INSIDE THE GAME
A Barrage From Deep
The key to posting a solid percentage from 3-point territory is in effective ball movement that delivers open looks on the perimeter. Once that is accomplished, then it's up to the shooters to knock down a decent number of those opportunities to stretch the opposing defense.
Maryland not only executed its flex offense to near perfection in the first half, but the Terrapin long-range bombers – namely Vasquez and Hayes – made the Tar Heels pay dearly. Maryland connected on its first five 3-pointers in building a 19-9 lead and knocked down seven of its first nine in pushing that margin out to 32-16.
"In the first half, we really gave them too many open looks," Roy Williams told reporters during his postgame press conference.
For the game, the Terrapins drilled 12-of-23 3-pointers, including a 9-of-16 mark in the opening 20 minutes. Vasquez shot 6-of-11 from behind the arc, while Hayes delivered a smooth 4-of-5 mark from deep.
"It's awfully nice to have really experienced guards," Williams said. "We said Eric was a great shooter and to try to make him put the ball on the floor and we gave him 4-for-5 from the 3-point line, so we didn't do a very good job of that, either."
Terrapin Run, Snowman Style
For a few minutes early in the second half, it felt as though maybe this game would end in a similar fashion as the N.C. State victory in Raleigh 12 days ago. The Tar Heels had battled back from a 10-point deficit at the half to make it a three-point contest at 52-49 on Deon Thompson's two free throws.
But that 12-2 spurt abruptly ended. After a Will Graves jumper made it 54-51 in Maryland's favor, the Terrapins connected on 12 of their next 18 shots, thanks to 10 assists and a large bulk of their 16 second-half fast break points. North Carolina, on the other hand, missed 11 of its 14 field goal attempts and committed four turnovers during the same stretch.
The result was a 32-12 Maryland run that ended any hopes of a North Carolina comeback.
The theme in the Tar Heel locker room was one of poor transition defense.
"We weren't doing a good job of getting back," Ginyard said. "We had all five guys looking at the ball, and it wasn't a priority for us to get back. That's the way we played out there, and it wasn't a big deal for everyone to sprint back on defense, and it killed us."
Thompson echoed Ginyard's comments, saying, "We've just got to get back. We can't leave our point guard back there in 3-on-1. If we score the ball, it lets us get back, but if you have turnovers and have guys running ahead, it's hard to get back. We just need to not turn the ball over and score."
And in case there is any confusion on your end, allow Graves to drive the point home.
"We just didn't get back on defense," the red-shirt junior said. "It's simple; we just got to get back and have defensive balance and do what we're supposed to do on offense."
As Williams has pointed out all season long, there will be days when the shots simply aren't falling. Of course, those days have been fairly frequent for UNC this year, but when the effort to play transition defense is lacking, 20-point massacres such as this one will only continue to grow in quantity for the Tar Heels.
As the Tar Heels walked off the floor at the Comcast Center on Sunday, the Maryland students could be heard chanting, "N-I-T, N-I-T."
At this point, earning a spot in the National Invitational Tournament may be the best-case scenario. When the NCAA purchased the rights to the NIT back in 2005, the entity did away with the .500 rule that forbid schools with losing records to gain entrance. That rule change may end up be a blessing in disguise for the Tar Heels.
Standing 13-10 overall and 2-6 in the ACC, North Carolina has four road games left this season, as well as home visits from Duke and Florida State. The Tar Heels must win three of their final eight games to post a winning record, but finding three more wins may be a tough challenge unless Williams can right a ship that's been sailing in the wrong direction for the past five weeks.
"To say that we are struggling would be the understatement of my entire life," Williams said. "But it makes no difference. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us, that's for sure, and they shouldn't. We're going to get people's best shots and we've got to start playing better."
And while the Tar Heels are down, there's little evidence to suggest that they've cashed this season in for hopes of a restart next October.
"We're 2-6 in the league, but we can't just sit around moping," Thompson said. "We've got Duke on Wednesday, so we've got to go back to Chapel Hill and prepare for that. We've got to come out and fight again."
A win against their hated archrival could be just the thing to reinvigorate this program for the second half of the conference season.
(Josh Vitale contributed to this article.)