Bullock, Heels break away from Terps
North Carolina looked like an ACC title contender Saturday — at least for one half.
In running up a 22-point halftime lead, UNC junior Reggie Bullock had outscored Maryland’s entire team (21-20), while the Tar Heels’ defense forced more turnovers (15) than the Terrapins had field goals (nine).
UNC (12-5, 2-2 ACC) eventually cooled off, but Maryland never got within single digits in the second half as the Tar Heels won 62-52 at the Smith Center.
“We don’t feel good about the way we played in the second half, but the first half we were pretty doggone good,” Williams said. “It was pretty in the first half. It looked like North Carolina basketball.”
Bullock finished with a career-high 24 points, while James Michael McAdoo recorded his first double-double since Dec. 1 with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Marcus Paige added six assists without committing a turnover, and Dexter Strickland had four steals.
Maryland (14-4, 2-3) was coming off a last-second win over N.C. State on Wednesday, but the momentum clearly didn’t carry over. Bullock scored the game’s first eight points, and the Terrapins turned it over five times in their first six possessions.
“The crowd was into it, Reggie was hot — that’s all you can ask for,” McAdoo said. “Our defense was there. Guys were just playing with a sense of urgency and hawking the ball on defense.”
UNC center Desmond Hubert had two steals and a block on Maryland’s first three trips downcourt and neutralized Terrapins standout Alex Len in the first half with help from UNC’s guards, which came in to double-team Len when he tried to dribble.
Maryland had more turnovers (10) than points (nine) in the first 11 minutes, and Bullock had 15 points as UNC raced out to a 24-9 lead.
“(My teammates) were setting great screens, and I was setting my man up,” Bullock said. “That’s one thing Coach always tells us: ‘If you’ve got a great shooter, go screen for him.’ I really thank my teammates a lot.”
Strickland punctuated the first half performance by stealing the ball from Pe’Shon Howard at midcourt with five seconds left and dunking the ball to make it 42-20 at the break. Howard finished with no assists and seven turnovers in 14 minutes, and Maryland finished with just five assists and 22 turnovers overall.
Bullock’s 21 first-half points were just two fewer than his career high for a game, which he set a year ago against East Tennessee State.
“(He played) bananas,” McAdoo said. “I kept telling him, ‘Drop 40 on them, Reg.’ He just played great, and none of it was selfish. It was all in our system.”
But after shooting 6-of-9 in the first half, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc, Bullock couldn’t keep up the pace in the second half, and neither could the rest of the Tar Heels. UNC shot just 23.5 percent after haftime and Bullock didn’t score for the first 14 minutes, as Maryland cut a 23-point lead to 12 with seven minutes left.
UNC freshman Brice Johnson blocked a dunk attempt by Charles Mitchell that could have made it a 10-point game, and Bullock’s lone second-half points came on a 3-pointer with 5:50 remaining that put the Heels up by 17.
“Right now, I’m about as ticked off about the second half as I can be, (but) I’m going to enjoy the first half,” Williams said.
Thanks to its strong frontcourt, Maryland went into the game second in the nation in rebounding margin (plus-11.1) and third in the country in field goal percentage defense (35.1).
The Tar Heels shot just 35.4 percent — the first time this season they won a game while hitting less than 40 percent of their shot — and were outscored 38-22 in the paint. But they were only outrebounded 41-39 and were able to use their speed to score 14 points off turnovers in the first half.
After starting 0-2 in the ACC for just the third time in 60 seasons, the Tar Heels are 2-2 heading into Wednesday night’s home game against Georgia Tech (10-6, 0-4).
“It was a hungry team and a hungry crowd,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “It was a team that needed a win, and they played like it.”
UNC 62, Maryland 52
Percentages: FG .396, FT .643. 3-Point Goals: 1-12, .083 (Faust 1-3, Layman 0-1, Aronhalt 0-3, Allen 0-5). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 4 (Aronhalt, Mitchell, Len, Padgett). Turnovers: 21 (Howard 7, Wells 5, Faust 3, Cleare 2, Layman, Allen, Mitchell, Len). Steals: 7 (Allen 3, Mitchell 2, Howard, Faust).
Percentages: FG .354, FT .611. 3-Point Goals: 5-17, .294 (Bullock 4-7, Hairston 1-5, McAdoo 0-1, Paige 0-4). Team Rebounds: 6. Blocked Shots: 5 (Hubert 2, McAdoo 2, Johnson). Turnovers: 12 (McAdoo 4, Hairston 3, Strickland 2, Tokoto, Simmons, Bullock). Steals: 11 (Strickland 4, Tokoto 2, Hubert 2, McAdoo 2, Paige).
A—20,865. Officials—Karl Hess, Ray Natili, Tim Nestor.