Marcus Paige is back and he's not rusty.
Early on UNC, got the better of Maryland thanks to 13 first half turnovers. Paige opened the game with a drive an assist to Kennedy Meeks then hit a three pointer on the next possession. From there the Tar Heel offense worked rather efficiently. Nate Britt provided the spark off the bench with five straight points to put the Tar Heels up ten. The lead would grow to as many as 13 and following a Joel Berry free throw with 5:52 left the Tar Heels led 36-24.
Maryland was not going away and Roy Williams stealing minutes with a less capable offensive lineup plus the Terps taking care of the ball cut the lead to four. The Tar Heels pushed the lead to 41-35 at halftime. For the half UNC shot 55% from the floor while Maryland hit 56% of its shows. The Terrapin turnovers were the difference in the game to that point.
The second half became a showdown between Marcus Paige and Melo Trimble. A flurry of threes from Maryland and a four point play from Trimble gave Maryland's its first and only lead of the game. Paige responded with five straight points to take the lead back. UNC's lead reached six before a Trimble three and Sulaimon's three point play tied the game at 67-67 with 9:28 left.
From there UNC asserted its offensive will and the Maryland shots finally stopped falling. With Paige on the bench for his only rest of the half, Justin Jackson hit a corner three to break a 69-69 tie. Theo Pinson made four straight free throws off drives to the basket to help UNC get nominal control of the game. The lead hovered between 4 and 6 points until a Kennedy Meeks kick out to Joel Berry for an open three ran the lead to nine with 5:02 left.
For UNC it then became a question of free throws and the Tar Heel answer was not great. With 1:27 left UNC led by six and went 2-9 from the line the rest of the game. Maryland failed to capitalize on the UNC misses at the line and UNC closed out a key win against a non-conference ranked opponent.
Marcus Paige led UNC with 20 points on 7-12 shooting and 4-5 from three. He also had five assists. Joel Berry also had five assists to go with 12 points and 3-5 shooting from three. Brice Johnson scored 16 points while Kennedy Meeks had 12 with both collecting six rebounds each. Justin Jackson's string of 20 point scoring games ended with a nine point effort on 3-7 shooting. Jackson did hit a clutch three to put UNC ahead for good when the game was tied at 69 apiece. He also added five steals.