Tar Heels Avenge Bad Loss With Huge Victory
Posted March 15, 2003 12:45 p.m. EST
GREENSBORO, N.C. — North Carolina didn't want to think about its last meeting against Maryland, when the Terrapins won by 40 points in the Tar Heels' worst league loss in school history.
But in the back of the Tar Heels' minds, the sting from that humiliating Feb. 22 defeat wouldn't go away.
They avenged it Friday, bouncing the 14th-ranked defending national champions out of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament with an 84-72 victory.
"We were embarrassed the last time we played them," forward David Noel said. "When you get beat by 40, you don't want to see anybody on campus the next day.
"That was the low point of the season. This is the high point. It doesn't get any better."
Jawad Williams scored a career-high 25 points. Raymond Felton had 20 points and 10 assists, and Melvin Scott added a career-high 19 points to lead the seventh-seeded Tar Heels (17-14).
North Carolina is rolling at the right time of the season and in the right building. The Tar Heels improved to 31-10 at the Greensboro Coliseum, where they have won seven ACC Tournament titles and scored their 100th win.
"We believe in what we're doing now," said Rashad McCants, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds. "We're a confident team, and it shows in our play."
North Carolina also upset its second-straight rival.
The Tar Heels beat then-No. 10 Duke five days ago in the regular-season finale. Now coach Matt Doherty thinks his team is making a case for the NCAA Tournament.
"We're playing our best basketball right now, and I think we should get some consideration," Doherty said. "We should be a topic of conversation in their war room."
The loss was yet another ACC Tournament failure for second-seeded Maryland (19-9). The Terps have been to the tournament semifinals the past eight years but haven't won a title since 1984.
"We didn't show enough emotion or passion to win this tournament," said Drew Nicholas, who scored 18 for Maryland. "This is as good as it gets. When I walked on the floor, I wanted to play three games this weekend, and we didn't play well enough to make that happen."
North Carolina, which trailed almost the entire first half, came out swinging in the second half.
Playing without Jackie Manuel, their best defender who went out four minutes into the game with a strained right arch, the Tar Heels were able to stifle Drew Nicholas while opening up their offense.
Nicholas, who had 15 points at halftime on six-of-10 shooting, couldn't shake Scott in the second half.
He didn't score for almost 10 minutes while Maryland fell apart with turnovers, sloppy passes and poor shooting.
Nicholas finished with just three points in the second half and finished seven-of-14 from the floor.
North Carolina jumped all over Maryland's mistakes. Scott was solid from long range, hitting three three-pointers in a furious 20-7 run.
Trailing 48-43 before the run, Scott's fifth three-pointer put North Carolina up 63-55 with 8:09 to play.
Maryland coach Gary Williams, furious with the Terrapins throughout the entire game, called a timeout to chastise his squad once again.
It didn't really help. Maryland's defense broke down right out of the timeout and Felton was left open to hit a three-pointer for a 66-55 North Carolina lead.
The Terrapins were able to make it close after Tahj Holden's layup. Steve Blake's three-pointer cut it to 68-61, but North Carolina wouldn't roll over.
Williams brought the sold-out crowd to its feet with a powerful one-handed slam dunk off an alley-oop pass from Felton and Scott followed with a pair of free throws to push the lead to 72-61 with 3:08 to play.
Blake finished with 12 points for Maryland and John Gilchrist added 10.
"I know we're down right now, but we'll be back next week, and we'll see what we can do," Williams said.