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Off the cuff: Carolina looked pretty darned good against Maryland even though the Heels shot only 40 percent.

After the Heels went on a 12-4 run over the last five minutes of the first half, it never really was close again.

Still, UNC coach Roy Williams says, "I think this team can get a lot better."

That's true. Harrison Barnes, while hitting some big shots, needed 23 shots to get his 21 points. He gets hot and then he goes cold.

Also, Reggie Bullock has not been the outside threat that's needed. Coach Williams announced that he tweaked his knee again against the Terps and perhaps that contributed to his one of eight shooting performance in just seven minutes.

Dexter Strickland, while dishing out eight assists, did not hit a basket in six attempts.

Finally, the Tar Heels go through these little stages in games where they have a rash of turnovers that let a team stay in a game. They need to put the foot to the pedal and play consistently throughout.

Still, overall, this Carolina team is looking good and with a couple of wins this week, the Tar Heels would improbably be the ACC regular season champs.

Tyler Zeller, right now, deserves to be first team All-ACC although he'll probably get second team. John Henson, with his long arms, is a force inside with multiple blocked shots every game. He also intimidates and changes shots.

Finally, the team just looks smoother with Kendall Marshall directing the team. He had 10 assists and three steals against the Terps. The highlight of the game in my mind was a Marshall pass to a streaking Zeller who jammed it through to give Carolina a 22-15 lead. He later threw a long pass to Barnes who scored on the fast break to make it 47-33.

If the Heels can stay healthy, the next month could be pretty special - and this from a team that has an entirely different starting five than it had a year ago.

Tar Heels 87, Maryland 76
UNC whips Terps to tie for ACC lead

North Carolina never trailed as the Tar Heels banged inside and hit from outside to defeat Maryland 87-76 and tie Duke for the ACC lead with just two regular-season games to go. (2/27)

Tyler Zeller did the offensive damage inside with 25 points while Harrison Barnes and Leslie McDonald did the damage outside with 21 and 15 points.

Barnes drained three threes in the first four minutes and Carolina got out to a quick 13-5 lead. But Maryland fought back to tie it at 13-all and it stayed close until the last five minutes of the first half.

Carolina went on a late 12-4 run to take a 43-31 halftime lead. That run was highlighted by a McDonald three from straight away, an old-fashioned three-point play by Zeller and a Barnes reverse lay in.

The Tar Heels had an amazing 15 offensive rebounds in the first half compared to just six by the Terrapins. But in the second half, Carolina had only five offensive rebounds and, while getting the lead up to 17 points, couldn't run away with it.

Maryland freshman guard Terrell Stoglin kept the Terrapins relatively close with a season-high 28 points. The Terrapins had the margin down to eight with 1:45 to go as they hit 10 of their previous 13 shots. Then, they stole the ball with full-court pressure. But Carolina pressured the Terps themselves and forced a turnover.

UNC's Dexter Strickland hit four straight free throws down the stretch to keep the Terrapins at bay.

John Henson led the way defensively for Carolina as he came up with 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots. He also scored 10 points to give the Heels four players in double figures.

The Tar Heels now stand at 22-6 and 12-2 in the ACC, even with Duke, and go to Florida State Wednesday night before finishing the regular season at home against the Blue Devils.

When asked about possibly playing Duke for the ACC regular season title, UNC coach Roy Williams said, "We better be thinking in terms of Florida State."

Maryland falls to 18-11 and 7-7 in the league.





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