Maryland grabbed an early lead and held it through much of the game against fifth-ranked Carolina on Saturday in College Park, but the Tar Heels still won 83-74.
The Terrapins shot the ball well for a while, then fatigue appeared to soften their legs and the jumpers that fell early began to hit the front of the rim. UNC also played much better defense in the second half.
Carolina (20-3, 7-1 in the ACC) swarmed the defensive boards and hustled down to eventually take the lead. Overall, this game typified what it is like when UNC visits College Park. The Tar Heels win some; they lose some, but they are almost always pushed to the nth degree before game's end.
"It was a tough, tough win," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "We made some shots down the stretch. At the same time, I thought it was our best game of the year in the second half."
The Terrapins (13-9, 3-5) gave a tremendous effort, once again led by Terrell Stoglin, the leading scorer in the ACC and fourth in the nation.
"We were really good defensively," Williams said. "But Terrell scored 20, and I thought he had 50. He is really hard to guard. Reggie Bullock was really good."
Carolina's defense helped to make Stoglin shoot a low percentage. He went 8-of-21 from the field, 1-of-10 from 3-point range.
UNC point guard Kendall Marshall had more turnovers than are characteristic for him, but he also passed 16 assists. He finished the game with four fouls, which is the same number Tyler Zeller had throughout a lot of the second half.
Marshall committed six turnovers on the night, but only one of those came in the second half. In that second half, Marshall passed seven assists to the one turnover.
"I took a chance with Kendall with eight minutes to play," Williams said. "I told him he had to be smart [about fouling] because we needed him in the game. We had a one-point lead or a three-point lead, so I took him about then put him back because I did not want to crowd to get back into it."
All the starters played key roles. Harrison Barnes, sprained his ankle again during the game, but he fought off the pain and made shot huge buckets when the Tar Heels needed them most.
John Henson scored 17 points to go with 12 rebounds and a block. He sank a nice baseline jump shot that helped during the comeback.
Maryland got excellent inside play, but Zeller proved to be too much for the Terrapins. He scored 22 points to lead the team, and he also had seven rebounds. Just as important, he went 7-of-8 at the free-throw line and blocked two shots.
Zellers' free throws proved critical.
"Z was big inside for us," Williams said. "In the second half, down the stretch, Harrison made some big shots for us. We got some follow shots from some people. Reggie made one. It was good for us we got some offense down the stretch.
"But I'll go back," Williams said. "I think the most significant thing was we really did a much better job defensively."
Maryland shot 38.7 percent from the field in the second half, a testament to Carolina's defense and fatigue on Maryland's part.
The Terrapins went 1-of-10 from 3-point range in the second half.
Compare those statistics with that of UNC's superior depth of talent.
UNC shot 46 percent in the second half and had 20 assists for the game, compared to Maryland's seven total assists.
But there is no doubt the Tar Heels had to earn everything it got in this one, just the way always seems in College Park, Md., for Carolina.
"In the first half I thought they were much more aggressive than we were," Williams said. "We were a little tentative around the basket. In the second half, I thought the offensive rebounding was good for us. In second-chance points, it was 18 to 12 for us.
"And it always helps to make free throws down the stretch."