USA TODAY Sports
The Heels show great poise on the road and clinch a first round bye in the ACC Tournament
This was a very impressive win for a variety of reasons. First, both NC State and Duke went to College Park and came out with losses. Secondly, this was a Maryland team that badly needed a quality win playing on Senior Night in front of raucous crowd. The UNC team from January would have wilted early in this game. Instead UNC was patient and weathered the Maryland pushes and responded with bigger runs. The most important coming with under seven minutes left in the game and the Terps using a press to create two quick baskets chopping the UNC lead from twelve to six. Following a much needed timeout from Roy Williams, Marcus Paige would hit a three and James Michael McAdoo a three point play to extend the lead back to 12. From there UNC was able to finish the job.
Interestingly enough, those two plays from Paige and McAdoo were huge especially given how much both struggled in this game. Paige had a very "freshman" game committing eight turnovers but did hit three 3-pointers including the crucial one with UNC leads trimmed to six. Likewise, McAdoo struggled against Maryland's size but made a clutch play late to stem what could have been an epic rally for Maryland. The Paige and McAdoo plays took the air out of a loud building just when it seemed like the Terps would rally.
The two players who did the bulk of the heavy lifting in this game were P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock. The two North Carolina natives went for 22 and 19 respectively and combined to go 6-13 from three. They also were extremely effective on the boards. The biggest fear coming into this game was Maryland would control the boards. That turned out to not be the case. UNC held fairly even on the boards losing the overall rebounding battle by one with Maryland ahead by about 4% in both OR% and DR%. Bullock had 12 rebounds and Hairston had eight. to account for 20 of UNC's 33 boards.
The biggest takeaway from this game is how far this team has come into terms of poise. Even Paige, who committed turn errors that allowed Maryland to cut the lead to six, then hit a three to stop the bleeding. Bullock and Hairston both stepped up with Leslie McDonald playing some solid minutes off the bench. Quietly Dexter Strickland dished out six assists vs zero turnovers and scored eight points. Everything appears to be going the right way for the Heels who have clinched a first round bye in the ACC Tournament. Now the UNC gets Duke in Chapel Hill where a win would put them in a 2nd place tie with the Blue Devils and clinch the #3 seed for the league tournament.