UNC's Williams looking for bittersweet win vs. departing Terps
Lennie Rosenbluth remembers his final game against Maryland as a key moment in North Carolina’s 1957 NCAA championship season.
UNC had won its first 16 games but trailed by four late against the Terrapins at Cole Field House. Tar Heels coach Frank McGuire told his team he didn’t want any problems after the game, so they should shake the Maryland players’ hands and then they’d work on starting a new streak. Except UNC hit some shots, Maryland missed some free throws and the Tar Heels wound up winning in double overtime en route to an undefeated season.
“After the Maryland game, we all believed that we would win them all,” Rosenbluth said. “It didn’t faze us, being down four points with 14,000 people there.”
UNC and Maryland have played every year since 1945 and are averaging at least two meetings a year since the series began in 1924.
But barring a matchup in the ACC Tournament, the Tar Heels and Terrapins will meet for the last time in the foreseeable future tonight at the Smith Center (8 p.m., WRAL).
”We always had great games with Maryland when I was playing. I know a lot of people hate to see them go,” Rosenbluth said. “I never felt that they should leave the conference, but I guess money talks and they found it more lucrative to go somewhere else.”
A charter member of the ACC, the Terrapins are headed to the Big Ten this summer
“Well, I still think of Maryland as an ACC school, and I’ll always think that way,” UNC coach Roy Williams said. “I’m old fashioned, old schooled. We’ve had some great, great games with them. I was here as an assistant for 10 years when Coach (Dean) Smith was head coach and Lefty (Driesell) was the coach up there. We had a great rivalry. I hate to see them leave the league, but their administration made the decision that they think is best for their school.”
Williams didn’t seem inclined to schedule a non-conference game against the Terrapins in the future, though a big reason is his relationship with Maryland coach Mark Turgeon, who was an assistant coach under Williams at Kansas from 1988-89 through 1991-92.
“It’d be hard for me, because Turge means so much to me,” Williams said in October. “Deep down, I don’t like to play people I’m close to because, at the end of the day, I’m either very disappointed for my players or very disappointed for that guy. But Turge and I would talk about it and go from there.”
Williams has scheduled games against former player and assistant Jerod Haase (at UAB) and former player Wes Miller (vs. UNC Greensboro) this season.
“It is difficult,” Williams said. “You enjoy visiting with them before the game but then during the game and as soon as the game is over, if you win, you feel that elation and all of sudden you realize who is on the other bench. And if you lose, like we did against UAB, you feel bad because you’ve got some guys on your bench you care a great deal about.”
Williams has already faced Turgeon three times in each of his first two seasons at Maryland, going a perfect 6-0 against his former assistant.
Tonight is the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season. In what is either a weird coincidence or a farewell gift from the ACC office, Maryland does not host Duke, UNC or N.C. State. Instead, the lone meetings with all three schools are in the Triangle, with the Terrapins traveling to Duke on Feb. 15.
Despite the historical significance of the final ACC home game against Maryland, Williams was focused on the importance of the game itself. UNC (14-7, 4-4 ACC) has won three in a row and can get over .500 in the ACC for the first time by beating Maryland (13-9, 5-4 ACC).
“We’ve got to focus on playing a team (that has won two in a row) and a head coach that I have a great amount of fondness for and play in that game and not be concerned about the ACC or Big Ten or what’s happening,” Williams said.
A big factor will be Maryland junior Dez Wells, who is averaging 19.7 points on 70 percent shooting over his last three games. Wells averaged 18 points on 53 percent shooting in his three games against the Tar Heels last season.