Rushed Reaction: #24 North Carolina 105, Wake Forest 72

Posted by nvr1983 on February 22nd, 2014

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Here are our observations after North Carolina crushed Wake Forest, 105-72:

  1. UNC will be an extremely difficult out in March. This shouldn’t be too much a surprise after their early season victories against Michigan State, Louisville, and Kentucky, but for much of the season the Tar Heels were dogged by the perception that they were inconsistent and for good reason. Mixed in with their big early wins the Tar Heels also had some awful losses–at home against Belmont and Miami and on the road against UAB and Wake Forest. Since their loss at Virginia on January 20, the Tar Heels have won nine straight and are starting to display the type of consistency that they will need to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Some of their win streak can be attributed by the current weak state of the ACC, but it also includes wins against Duke and Pittsburgh. Current bracket projections have the Tar Heels being anything between a #5 and #8 seed after this week they should be somewhere near the top of that range.
  2. Jeff Bzdelik needs a real estate agent. I know that the Wake Forest administration showed a lot of faith in Bzdelik by firing Dino Gaudio, who had taken them to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, to hire Bzdelik, who was 36-58 in three seasons at Colorado. With nearly three seasons in the books in Winston-Salem, Bzdelik is approaching 30 games under .500. Ron Wellman talked about culture when he hired Bzdelik, but we doubt that he was thinking of this type of culture at the time. At this point we would be shocked if Bzdelik returned next season so the question really is who will replace him. The two names that get thrown around for every power conference vacancy are Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland, but we cannot see either of them going to Wake Forest with the options they will have in front of them. Perhaps the most interesting potential candidate we have heard is Jeff Capel, who has experience at Oklahoma and knows the ACC well sitting alongside Mike Krzyzewski. We obviously have our reservations about hiring a retread who went 27-36 A.B. (after Blake Griffin departed), but he would be a relatively safe hire and one with some decent credentials.
  3. Roy Williams seems much more relaxed. Early in the season there were rumors that this might be Roy’s last year. Those were obviously premature particularly with what appears to be an outstanding freshman class coming in. Still everybody who followed the Tar Heels could clearly tell that this team and this season was taking a toll on Roy. The turnaround in how the Tar Heels are playing has led to Roy’s mood to improve significantly (shocking). Although Williams is certainly not young at 63 years old, we would be looking at some of his colleagues in the ACC to retire before we would expect Roy to do so.

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Four Takeaways From Iowa State’s Win Over Baylor

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 7th, 2014

If you are just now turning your attention to college basketball, you can thank the Big 12 scheduling committee for throwing you a bone. One day after both teams moved into the top ten of the AP Poll (not ours, which as you saw tonight was more accurate), Baylor met Iowa State in Ames, with the Cyclones pulling away in the second half for a resounding 87-72 win in Hilton Coliseum. If you didn’t catch it, however, we have you covered with four key takeaways:

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn't need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn’t need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

  1. Welcome to the national spotlight, DeAndre Kane: The graduate transfer from Marshall has been terrific all season, but he completely outdid himself Tuesday night scoring 30 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out nine assists. Oh, he also had five steals. Kane excelled at picking his spots to drive right to the hoop, stop on a dime and pass, or pull up from three as well as regularly beating the Bears down the floor in transition. With conference play revving up in earnest, he is going to start gathering a lot of headlines, so be sure to tune in when the Cyclones hit the floor over the next two months. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #18 Kentucky 73, #6 Louisville 66

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2013

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Rush the Court was in Lexington today for the Kentucky-Louisville game from Rupp Arena.

Three Key Takeaways.

John Calipari Moved to 78-2 at Rupp Arena With a Win Over Louisville.

John Calipari Moved to 78-2 at Rupp Arena With a Win Over Louisville.

  1. Louisville Won’t Repeat Unless Mangok Mathiang Becomes a Trusted Defensive Finisher. The Louisville big man came into tonight’s game as a freshman starter with elite-level numbers — an offensive rating that ranks among the nation’s 100 best players, a top 25 ranking in offensive rebounding percentage, and a top 75 ranking in block percentage. So what’s the problem? The issue is that he only plays 18 minutes per game (22 tonight), which suggests that Rick Pitino doesn’t trust him as much as he does some of his veterans like Stephan Van Treese, Montrezl Harrell, Luke Hancock and Chane Behanan. Van Treese doesn’t bring much other than a big body for spot minutes to the table, but the latter three — while key contributors, all — are simply not big enough to compete with the elite big men around the country. A lineup where 6’5″ Wayne Blackshear is expected to defend seven-footer Willie Cauley-Stein in the post is simply ridiculous. Pitino needs one more reliable defensive post player whom he can trust down the stretch of close games, and Mathiang is really his only viable option there. 
  2. Kentucky Playing Most of the Second Half Without Julius Randle Will Serve Dividends Later. For an extended period of the second half, Kentucky star forward Julius Randle was sidelined with cramps, briefly re-entering the game with about 12 minutes remaining only to beg out a few seconds later. The key stretch was from around the 14-minute mark to the six-minute mark, as the Wildcats, led by Andrew Harrison and James Young, outscored the Cardinals 15-4 to take a commanding lead in what had been a tight one. Not only is this huge for a young team’s confidence, but the black hole aspect of a post-up by Randle was removed from the offensive equation (and why wouldn’t you keep feeding a guy who had 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half?), and Kentucky’s offense actually got better as a result. Penetration-and-kick became the offense, and the Harrison twins are as good as any guards in the country at both getting shots up in the lane and finessing them into the hole. Young, with a jumper and a three of his own during this stretch, did his part, but the key takeaway here is that the other Wildcats are also incredibly talented offensive players, and tonight revealed a dimension that they can rely on in the case of foul trouble or injury to Randle down the line.
  3. Kentucky’s Ceiling is Higher than Louisville’s. It’s tough to draw deep conclusions from a young team playing at home in front of a rabid crowd that willed them through. But after seeing both teams in person today, it’s obvious enough that in the battle of which team has fewer flaws and a higher potential ceiling, it is Kentucky. Even though the Wildcats are a lot younger than Louisville and exhibit it by making a lot of dumb mistakes (and missing half their free throws), they have more guys who can just go get buckets when called upon. Few teams in the country have that luxury — maybe Arizona and Kansas, perhaps Duke and Florida — but the Wildcats of November will look a lot different than the one of March, and we’re seeing that transformation happening right before our eyes.

Star of the Game. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky. He didn’t have the greatest shooting night at 6-of-16 from the field for 18 points and four assists, but as mentioned above, he was the spark that led his team to victory when Randle left the game. It was really a matter of his penetration into the paint which allowed him to call his own number for floaters a few times as well as to find kickouts for James Young’s jumpers. His brother Aaron came on strong at the end, for what was probably the best combined game for the Texas twins in a Kentucky uniform. Certainly the best meaningful game. 

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Rushed Reactions: Duke 80, UCLA 63

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 20th, 2013

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Brian Otskey filed this report after Duke’s win over UCLA on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Three Key Takeaways.

Duke Used a Superb Second Half Effort to Run Past the Bruins

Duke Used a Superb Second Half Effort to Run Past the Bruins

  1. Duke is getting better defensively. After a so-so defensive first half, Duke held UCLA to 26 points on 34.5 percent shooting in the second stanza. In particular, Rodney Hood did a terrific job containing Jordan Adams and keeping him out of any kind of rhythm. The Blue Devils also frustrated Zach LaVine into a number of bad shots that fueled Duke’s transition attack. Holding the nation’s third-leading scoring team to 63 points is a feather in Duke’s cap and it appears Mike Krzyzewski’s much-maligned defense is starting to come together. If the Blue Devils can defend at this kind of level, they will be the clear favorites in the ACC.
  2. Rasheed Sulaimon may have found his role. Sulaimon had a terrific freshman season for Duke in 2012-13 but his second go-around in Durham has been anything but smooth sailing. After being benched against Michigan and playing only five minutes against Gardner-Webb, Sulaimon gained a lot of confidence in 18 minutes of action tonight. While he was only 3-of-7 from the floor, Sulaimon grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. On a team with so many options, he needs to carve out a role for himself without trying to do too much. He did just that tonight and his teammates and coaches noticed. This should serve Sulaimon well going forward and get him out of Coach K’s doghouse.
  3. UCLA needs to figure it out defensively. UCLA entered the game allowing opponents to score 70.2 points per game but allowed 80 Duke points on 48.4 percent shooting. We knew defending the three-point line was going to be key for the Bruins tonight but they did not do a good job. Duke shot a lukewarm 34.4 percent from beyond the arc but it bombarded UCLA with 32 attempts and 11 makes. This has been a recurring issue for Steve Alford’s team this season and until it figures it out, there will be a ceiling to how far it can go. Offense can take you a long way but against top competition such as Duke and the kind they will face in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins must do better.

Star of the Game:  Jabari Parker, Duke. The stud Blue Devil freshman shined once again under the bright lights. Parker put together a double-double, tallying 23 points and 10 rebounds on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting night. The 6’8” forward also recorded five assists in the win. UCLA had a difficult time matching up with Parker and it showed. He basically got what he wanted on any part of the court whether it was from long range or around the basket.

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Rushed Reactions: #13 Florida 77, #20 Memphis 75

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 2013

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Brian Otskey attended the Jimmy V. Classic on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. 

Three Key Takeaways from the second game of the Jimmy V. Classic.

  1. Rebounding made the difference for Florida. The strong Gators front line absolutely dominated Memphis on the boards, out-rebounding the Tigers by 11–37 to 26. This allowed Florida to overcome 17 turnovers and come away with the win. It was an evenly played game in most areas but Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Casey Prather were the difference makers on the glass for Billy Donovan’s team.
  2. Despite the loss, Memphis proved it is legitimate. It is rare for a team to impress in a loss, but the Tigers did just that tonight against Florida. While its win over Oklahoma State earlier this season certainly stands out, the Memphis showed once again that it can go toe-to-toe with one of college basketball’s best teams. Josh Pastner’s non-conference slate, which has included two games against Oklahoma State, one against Florida, and one against LSU, has done its job in preparing the Tigers for the rigors of conference play in their new league. Memphis has the talent to battle Connecticut for second place in the American assuming Louisville will win the league.
  3. Florida has so many weapons. The balanced scoring and overall talent on this team is scary. Billy Donovan has six capable scorers on his roster and can mix and match with a variety of different lineups that feature speed, perimeter shooting, interior dominance, or any combination of the three. I especially like what Dorian Finney-Smith brings to this team. The Virginia Tech transfer scored 14 points but his presence defensively and on the boards is what stood out. He changes the dynamic of Florida’s lineup because of his versatility. With Chris Walker possibly joining this already loaded unit, which Donovan significantly downplayed after the game, the Gators have the look of a Final Four contender yet again.

Star of the Game: Casey Prather, Florida. Prather’s terrific improvement from his junior to senior season continued on Tuesday night as the Gator senior led all scorers with 22 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting while connecting on all six free throw attempts. Prather was good on the defensive side as well, a key piece of a talented Florida front line that limited Memphis’ Shaq Goodwin to only four field goal attempts in 35 minutes of play. Prather has been among the most improved players in the nation and a key reason why Florida continues to improve, even after two close losses to date in non-conference play.

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Rushed Reactions: Cincinnati 44, Pittsburgh 43

Posted by nvr1983 on December 17th, 2013

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Three Key Takeaways from the first game of the Jimmy V. Classic.

  1. The conference affiliations may have changed, but the style of play remains the same. This was, quite simply, a brutal basketball game to watch. Between all the missed shots, slow pace, fumbled passes, and even multiple clock issues early in the game, you deserve an award if you watched all 40 minutes of this one. The teams combined to shoot 31-for-88 (35.2%)  from the floor and a putrid 5-for-26 from three-point range. It was a fresh reminder of the old Big East and the physical, defensive battles we often saw in that league over the years.
  2. Defense and rebounding won the game for Cincinnati. The Bearcats dominated the battle of the boards, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds to Pittsburgh’s eight. Cincinnati held the Panthers to 31.4 percent shooting for the game en route to the win. In the closing seconds, an offensive rebound and put-back by Titus Rubles proved to be the game-winning basket after Pitt’s Lamar Patterson failed to put a body on him after a missed Cincinnati shot. Mick Cronin praised his team’s effort on the glass and its resilience after a poor showing against Xavier on Saturday and it seemed like a giant weight had been lifted off the team’s collective shoulders.
  3. Pittsburgh missed an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. It’s no secret that Jamie Dixon schedules soft in non-conference play. While the Panthers have already beaten two decent teams in Stanford and Penn State, tonight was a clear upgrade in competition. Suffice to say, Pitt did not acquit itself well. After the game, Dixon dodged a question about it and reverted to coach-speak in trying to brush aside the issue. While I’m not convinced Pitt’s poor schedule had a lot to do with tonight’s loss, nobody will give the Panthers the benefit of the doubt after this performance. Even if they had won, I figure the reaction would be similar.

Star of the Game: Justin Jackson, Cincinnati. Jackson held Cincinnati together in the first half with 10 points and six rebounds on 5-of-5 shooting. He finished the game with 12 points and totaled seven offensive rebounds for the Bearcats. After the game, Titus Rubles said his game-winning layup wouldn’t have been possible without the effort of Jackson. He has proved to be an effective player in the post in his senior season and could emerge as a reliable option behind Kilpatrick on a team that desperately needs one.

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Rushed Reactions: Jabari Parker Makes His Case To Be #1 But So Does Kansas

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2013

Coming into this season we found it strange that nearly every media outlet was ignoring Jabari Parker, who was a Sports Illustrated cover boy and the #1 player in the class of 2013 for much of his time in high school. We figured it was the explosiveness of Andrew Wiggins, the raw power of Julius Randle, or the rustiness that Parker showed recovering from a foot injury to explain his absence from much of the discourse. Perhaps it was a combination of all three. Regardless of what led the media to forget about Parker, his play tonight should remind everybody that the race for the #1 spot in the 2014 NBA Draft is still a three-player race.

Jabari Played Great In His Homecoming, But Was Overshadowed

Wiggins is an obvious choice given his unmatched athleticism. Randle makes a strong case with his ability to dominate around the basket. The case for Parker is a little more complex in that he is a more complete player right now than the other two. He does not have one skill that will take your breath away, but he does nearly everything well. Whether it is driving to the basket, finishing a dunk that reminds you of Grant Hill in the 1991 National Championship game, hitting almost every kind of jumper imaginable, or defending a potential NBA center in Joel Embiid despite being nearly half a foot shorter, Parker exhibits everything you would expect from a future NBA star. And for much of tonight it appeared that he was going to make Chicago his city as he had done for his four years at Simeon. Unfortunately for the Duke freshman and the locals who came out to support him, Bill Self and the Jayhawks had a very different narrative to write tonight.

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Rushed Reactions: A #1 vs. #2 Matchup That Lived Up to the Hype

Posted by nvr1983 on November 12th, 2013

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Early-season match-ups with the hype that tonight’s KentuckyMichigan State had rarely live up to expectations. Tonight’s game was the exception as it had a little bit of everything and showed us the good and bad of both teams:

For Michigan State, the Spartans got the win that should confirm their status on the short list of favorites to win the NCAA title:

  • They demonstrated an enormous amount of composure in losing a big early lead that evaporated late in the second half as Kentucky began to exhibit what some might consider its superior talent. Like the veteran team that they are, the Spartans were able to make the plays that they needed to in order to walk out of the United Center with a hard-fought win. This shouldn’t be a surprise for a Tom Izzo-led team, but it should be reassuring for Spartan fans that this team won’t fold under serious pressure.
Gary Harris Had a Great First Half in Tonight's Game Credit: (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

Gary Harris Had a Great First Half in Tonight’s Game Credit: (Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports)

  • Coming into the season the one knock on the Spartans was that they lacked the star power of the other favorites. There may be some validity to that (more on this later), but as Gary Harris (20 points), Adreian Payne (15 points), and Keith Appling (22 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists) showed they still have some of the best players in the country. Harris and Payne seem like almost certain first round picks with Harris in particular probably a lottery pick. Appling won’t be a first round pick and might not even end up in the NBA, but he has become a solid collegiate point guard and one capable of leading a team to a National Championship, which is not something we would have said last season. In fact, Appling was probably the best player on the court for the Spartans tonight given his consistent all-around play, whereas the other two disappeared for spots.
  • When Branden Dawson tore his left ACL in March 2012 and came back looking like a shell of his former self we wondered if we would ever see the player who previously had appeared to be on the verge of being a superstar. We may never see what Dawson could have become in a Spartan uniform, but he showed some flashes of his former explosiveness tonight. First there was an easy dunk on transition that should have erased any questions about how he was doing physically, but even more telling was his offensive rebound and putback with 10 seconds left to essentially seal the victory for the Spartans.
  • Having said that, the big question of who the Spartans will use to take over will remain. Despite having three stars in the lineup, they lack a true superstar who they know they can go to when they need somebody to produce. Now this is not a necessity for a team to win a championship, but in a year filled with freshmen phenoms who are capable of doing so, it remains a concern. The most likely player to develop into this type of alpha dog is Harris, but Tom Izzo will need a more consistent effort from him before we can consider him that kind of player.

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Rushed Reactions: #6 VCU 88, #12 Akron 42

Posted by Will Tucker on March 21st, 2013

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Will Tucker is a RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #6 VCU and #12 Akron from Auburn Hills. You can also find him on Twitter @blrdswag.

Three Key Takeaways:

  1. As if there was any doubt, VCU proved it’s back in Tournament form. After losing a tough Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament championship to Saint Louis, the Rams showed no semblance of a hangover. They mercilessly inflicted their havoc system on Akron for 40 minutes, generating 34 points off of 22 Akron turnovers, 20 of which came on fast breaks. A Zips player told reporters after the game, “We used so much energy trying to get the ball up the court that we couldn’t guard them.” After shooting below 34% and hitting 3-of-18 three-point attempts against SLU, the Rams found their range in their NCAA opener, draining 8-of-16 from beyond the arc and shooting 54% overall.

    Shaka Smart and his fiest VCU squad jumped all over Akron Thursday night. (Getty)

    Shaka Smart and his fiest VCU squad jumped all over Akron Thursday night. (Getty)

  2. Lack of size didn’t hamper the Rams against the bigger Zips and 7’ senior Zeke Marshall. There were concerns that VCU’s undersized frontcourt would be a significant liability in the Tournament, but in their first game the Rams used a collaborative effort to defend and rebound inside. 6’9″, 235-pound Juvonte Reddic, the team’s biggest starter, scored 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting and grabbed five boards. His teammates did the rest, as five of them grabbed three or more rebounds, helping to build advantages of 36 to 29 in rebounding and 40 to 28 in points in the paint.
  3. The game was essentially over after VCU doubled up on Akron 50-25 at halftime, but Shaka Smart didn’t let up. The Rams again doubled Akron’s scoring in the second half, led by 48 with 6 minutes left, and their 46-point margin of victory was apparently the largest ever in a 6/12 seeding matchup. This was particularly uncomfortable because Smart and Akron coach Keith Dambrot are close friends, but the Zips coach said it wasn’t a disrespectful gesture. “He’s got a job to do. His job is to prepare his team to win the next game, and I don’t take any offense to it,” Dambrot said. For his part, Shaka insisted the Zips were victims of circumstance and a poor matchup, and that he called off his trap with nine minutes left and his press with seven remaining. “There was a lot of time on the clock. We’re not just going to fall back in a zone, that’s not what we do,” Smart said.

Star of the GameTroy Daniels edged Reddic for this one after scoring 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting, hit 6-of-11 threes, and grabbed five rebounds in 21 minutes. Most importantly, the 6’4″ senior guard atoned for a scoreless performance in 17 minutes against SLU.

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Rushed Reactions: #23 North Carolina 79, Maryland 68

Posted by IRenko on March 6th, 2013

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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.
P.J. Hairston's Aggressiveness and Physicality Helped he Tarheels to the Win in a Hostile Environment (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

P.J. Hairston’s Aggressiveness and Physicality Helped he Tarheels to the Win in a Hostile Environment (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images North America)

  • 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.

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