Rushed Reactions: #23 North Carolina 79, Maryland 68Posted by IRenko on March 6th, 2013
I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Wednesday night’s game between North Carolina and Maryland. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three Key Takeaways:
- One Team is Dancing, and the Other Is (Probably) Not — This was UNC’s sixth straight win and clinched a share of third place in the ACC. The Tar Heels’ recent run, which includes victories over Virginia and NC State, has solidified their hold on an at-large bid. A win over Duke on Saturday would leave no doubt, but even a loss followed by another in the first round of the ACC Tournament should not jeopardize their at-large hopes. Maryland, on the other hand, is headed in the opposite direction. The Terps badly needed this win after recent losses at Boston College and Georgia Tech. Without it, they’ll probably need to beat Virginia on Saturday and make a deep run in the ACC Tournament to have a shot.
- McAdoo vs. Len Disappoints — The marquee match-up coming into the game was the battle between big men James Michael McAdoo and Alex Len, but it proved to be a disappointment. Len excited the crowd with some putbacks, but both players looked tentative and ineffective trying to create offense. McAdoo finished with 10 points and two rebounds. Len added just eight points. To some extent, the letdown was a microcosm for their seasons. Both players entered the year with high expectations — perhaps unfairly high — that they haven’t quite matched. McAdoo was in early National Player of the Year conversations, but has drifted well out of the NPOY race as well as NBA Draft lottery projections. Len remains a projected lottery pick, but he has struggled down the stretch, scoring in single digits in seven of last 11 games (after scoring in double digits in 15 of his first 18 games). I don’t pretend to be a draft expert, but one has to wonder if we may see both of these guys back in college uniforms come November.
- Maryland’s Shooting Woes Continue — UNC offered a great chance for Maryland to break out of its outside shooting slump, as the Tar Heels’ defense is vulnerable to the three-point shot. And, sure enough, the Terps had plenty of good looks, particularly off post kickouts and ball reversals. But they couldn’t capitalize, shooting an ugly 3-of-23 from behind the arc. They are now shooting 17.9 percent from three over their last three games and 27.3 percent over their past six. The Terps tried to compensate for their woeful shooting against UNC by pounding the offensive glass and attacking the paint. They were effective, outscoring the Heels in the paint, 38-16, and on second-chance points, 20-11. But they still lost the game by 11 points, thanks to their disastrous night from outside.
Star(s) of the Game: With McAdoo having a quiet night, it fell to swingmen P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock to set the tone and take control for UNC. Hairston powered the Tar Heels in the first half, scoring in a variety of ways, and Bullock’s clutch shooting in the second half helped them fend off Maryland’s attempts to rally. Both played hard on the glass as well, combining for 20 rebounds and helping to overcome Maryland’s early advantage in that department. Hairston finished with 22 points, eight boards, and three steals, while Bullock tallied 19 points, 12 rebounds, and three steals of his own.
Sights and Sounds: This was Senior Night for Maryland, and Logan Aronhalt and James Padgett were honored before the game. Aronhalt transferred from Albany before the season and has been used as a three-point specialist off the bench. But Padgett is the veteran of this young Maryland team, the only player whose tenure dates back to Maryland’s 2010 ACC championship season and one of only three Terps who was coached by Gary Williams. With his departure, Maryland’s roster will be one step closer to bearing only Mark Turgeon’s fingerprints.
Quotable: “They doubled the post, we got good looks. You gotta knock ’em down.” – Turgeon, lamenting his team’s disastrous night from the three-point line.
Wildcard: Maryland’s full-court press allowed them to stay within striking distance in the second half. It powered a 7-0 run during a 30-second stretch that pulled the Terps to within six with 6:08 remaining. UNC’s freshman point guard Marcus Paige suffered the brunt of the pressure, finishing the game with eight turnovers. It did not prove to be enough, and after the game, Turgeon was clear that it’s “not the answer.” But it was an encouraging sign that the Terps can deploy this defensive weapon with success.
What’s Next: UNC will host the ESPN Gameday crew for a little game against some team named Duke on Saturday night. Maryland travels to its area rival, Virginia, on Sunday with a chance to impress the Selection Committee one more time before the ACC Tournament.