COLLEGE PARK -- Instant analysis: North Carolina 79, Maryland 68
How it happened: Early on this game was a tight contest, but the Tar Heels went on a 10-0 run to close out the first half and hardly looked back. In the second half, the Terps could never get back to even with the Heels as a combination of sloppy ball handling and poor decisions allowed North Carolina a double digit lead for the bulk of the game’s final 20 minutes.
A recurring problem for the Terps, Carolina’s four-guard lineup caused matchup issues. Maryland’s bigs often looked lost on the defensive end being forced to guard smaller, quicker players that proved effective on the perimeter.
The Terps made things interesting with an 11-2 run late in the second half, led by freshman Jake Layman and a stifling full court press. The Terps drew within six points of the Heels, but a 3-pointer by Carolina’s Marcus Paige ended the run and effectively Maryland’s comeback.
Sophomore guard P.J. Hairston paved the way for Carolina with 22 points and two 3-pointers. A good shooter with decent size at 6’5”, Hairston was just the type of matchup problem that plagued the Terps. Reggie Bullock added 19 for the Heels.
Senior Night honors: Senior James Padgett received a nice ovation from the Maryland crowd before playing his final home game. Getting the start, Padgett responded to the crowd, playing some of his best minutes of the season and scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Repeatedly, the soft-spoken Padgett made nice post moves with his back to the basket. Though Padgett has no NBA buzz, he looked like the better player with the ball around the basket than some of Maryland’s other big men.
Senior Night blues: Logan Aronhalt only played one season for the Terps, but coach Mark Turgeon looks at the fifth-year transfer for senior leadership. Known for good 3-point shooting for most of the year, Aronhalt simply did not have his stroke tonight, missing all five of his 3-point attempts.
Goodbye Alex Len? Maryland’s 7’1” center may not be a senior, but there is much speculation that Len played his last home game for Maryland. Many predict Len to be a future NBA lottery pick, and in what is considered to be a weak draft class, Len may have that opportunity this season.
Len has undoubtedly provided highlights for the Maryland fans, but the sophomore has been inconsistent. Against North Carolina, Len scored eight points and hauled in seven rebounds. Len never appeared to dominate the game, let alone provide a strong presence in the post.
Routinely Len cannot establish position on the block, limiting the Terps ability to get the center the ball in a position to make a move and score. The times Len is able to establish himself with his defender behind him, more often than not Len has been pushed out closer to the perimeter than the paint.
Opponents almost always double-team the big man, making positioning more difficult, but for a player with such outstanding measurables, most Terps fans expect stronger performances.
Threes make the difference: Carolina shot well from deep, Maryland did not. The Heels buried 10 threes on 24 attempts while the Terps made just 3 of 23. Bullock led the Heels with four 3-pointers, while Marcus Paige each added three.
What happens next: Maryland travels to Virginia on Sunday for the regular season finale. With the loss to North Carolina it appears the Terps’ NCAA Tournament chances might be finished barring a run in the ACC Tournament, but perhaps Maryland will step up and knock out the rival Cavaliers tourney chances.
For the Heels, a home game with archrival Duke awaits. Carolina-Duke is arguably the best rivalry in all of college basketball, and this weekend’s matchup likely will not disappoint.