COLLEGE PARK, Md.--- North Carolina (22-8, 12-5 ACC) extended its winning streak to six as they downed Maryland (20-10, 8-9 ACC) amidst a heavy winter weather advisory and during the
Terrapins senior night.
"I'm really happy for our guys, really proud of them. Maryland, I thought, would make a run, but I was hoping that our play would not allow them to make a run," said Roy Williams afterwards.
The Tar Heels got reeled into a physical game but persevered behind the strong efforts of P.J. Hairston and Reggie Bullock.
"We're definitely getting better every game. Everybody is sharing the ball. We're having fun. We're talking on defense. We've just got to continue to do that," said Bullock after the game.
Hairston scored 22 points and connected on two three-pointers while Bullock scored 19 points and secured his second double-double by snagging 12 rebounds.
Alex Len for 27 minutes. Len finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
Maryland's seniors, Logan Aronhalt and James Padgett ended their home careers as Terrapins by scoring 9 and zero points respectively.
North Carolina big man James Michael McAdoo picked up two early fouls but didn't sit any longer than he had to.
Despite the early foul trouble, McAdoo still played 16 first half minutes and 33 total.
He also hit some crucial free throws down the stretch after struggling at the line in previous games.
McAdoo had 10 points and two rebounds.
Desmond Hubert filled in nicely during the time that McAdoo sat, picking up two blocks in nine minutes.
Despite eight turnovers, Marcus Paige kept his confidence and hit a big three near the end of the game that took the wind out the Comcast Center.
Maryland took advantage of a couple of Paige's turnovers to rapidly turn a double-digit UNC advantage into a six-point game midway through the second half, but Paige's huge three-ball calmed the waters.
"We turned it over a couple of times in our backcourt and they make a couple threes and all of a sudden it's a six-point game," said Williams. "The best thing I liked is Marcus Paige, who turned it over at least two of those times, is a guy that stepped up and made a big three to take it back to nine (point lead), and then we came down and got James Michael going to the basket on a set play, he makes the layup and gets fouled."
"Marcus made a great shot, and we turned it up once they started trying to make a stretch run," added Bullock.
"He (Paige) bounced back real quickly. We need plays like that. He turns it over, and he can't dwell on that turnover and let it affect his game throughout the whole game," said Dexter Strickland. "Mistakes happen. There's little mistakes that we can get better on. Nobody is perfect. But that's just something that we can get better on."
"(Paige) hit a big three for us," the senior guard continued. "His confidence is getting better each and every game, and that was big for us, and he's very important to the team."
North Carolina jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first half but allowed Maryland to quickly tie it up at 12. Late in the first half is where UNC pulled away and really never let Maryland get back into it.
North Carolina had a 10-0 run to end the first half, a stretch that eventually became a 20-4 margin over the course of the late first half and early second period.
Despite concerns from Roy Williams about Maryland's potential to exploit UNC's smaller starting line-up, the Terps only out-rebounded UNC by one (34-33) and didn't have a single post player score in double-figures.
"We got Maryland on a night when they didn't make some shots that they wanted," said Williams.
"I'm just trying to live on the boards," added Bullock about UNC's rebounding. "We've got a small lineup adding P.J. in it, and they (Maryland) are definitely one of the better rebounding teams in our conference. So we just had to force ourselves to do it (hit the boards) more for our teammates."
It was a bitter end to Maryland's home regular season slate but a great way for North Carolina to tune-up for their season finale against arch-rival Duke.
UNC couldn't ask for a better set of circumstances heading into the regular season finale, as they're on a season-long winning streak and mostly healthy.
This smaller but more athletic and explosive lineup is clearly paying off for the Tar Heels, but so is the fact that everyone is 30 games into the season and much more aware of their surroundings.
"I don't think it's just the lineup (that's making us play better)," said Strickland. "It's our guys having more experience on the floor, just knowing what we have to do to get a win. Everybody is playing together. The team chemistry is there, and everybody is just playing hard."
North Carolina and Duke (26-4, 13-4 ACC) tip-off Saturday at 9 p.m. from the Smith Center.