by Drew Sorrells
Much has changed since the last meeting between Maryland and North Carolina. No longer squaring-up as ACC foes, they renewed an old rivalry in this early season top-ten matchup.
The primetime game of this year’s Big Ten-ACC challenge turned into an offensive showcase that ended with UNC toppling Maryland 89-81. Both teams move to 6-1 on the season.
To put it frankly, it was a hell of a game.
After falling behind early, turnovers ultimately lead to Maryland’s demise (No, I am not writing about the football team). They had a season high 22 turnovers on the night, with 13 of them coming in the first half.
In his first game back after fracturing his wrist before the season began, senior guard Marcus Paige answered the call in a big way. He led the Tar Heels with 20 points and 5 assists, shooting a lights out 4-5 from deep. Brice Johnson was also a steady contributor, adding 16 points of his own.
On the biggest stage of the season, the Terrapin backcourt shined in a losing effort. Melo Trimble turned in an impressive game, leading all scorers with 23 points and 12 assists. He also turned the jets on with this crossover, much to the chagrin of Nate Britt and the remains of what used to be his ankles.
Rasheed Sulaimon continued his season-long trend of steady contribution, with 18 points as well.
In a young season, especially with so many personnel changes before the season began, it is important to note that losses are going to happen. They are part of the process, especially as new faces like Sulaimon and Stone learn to play with the familiar names like Trimble and Layman. This is apparent from their 22 turnovers, and senior Jake Layman had a mere 4 points on 1-5 shooting from the floor.
There was a strong backbone and resiliency shown as the Terrapins clawed their way back into the game time and time again. They fought back to take a 59-58 lead in the second half, after trailing the entire game beforehand. In a game of runs, whenever North Carolina put together a run, the veteran backcourt-duo of Trimble and Sulaimon made sure that Maryland made a run of their own.
Last night was the biggest test that this highly touted Maryland team has faced this season. While their game against Georgetown was one of the most anticipated games in recent memory, that anticipation was largely correlated to the sense of possibility that accompanies the rekindling of a rivalry with its roots so deeply embedded in local familiarity.
But on Tuesday night, Maryland entered Chapel Hill in a game that provides a firsthand glimpse at what could be. With hopes of becoming a yearly National Championship contender, Maryland approached their former conference rivals as top-ten ranked peers rather than conference foes with the power strongly-tilted towards North Carolina.
While largely one-sided historically, the rivalry between UNC and Maryland conjures up iconic images that are integral to the folklore of Maryland basketball. For those who were lucky enough to witness it, this matchup is reminiscent of the days of Len Bias and his 35-point victory in 1986 that handed the top-ranked Tar Heels their first loss in the Dean Dome.
For more recent fans, this matchup is nostalgic of Greivis Vasquez’s 35-point triple double that lead the unranked Terrapins to an upset over North Carolina in 2009. While tonight’s game ended with Maryland on the losing end, it was indicative of a new chapter in Maryland basketball.
Their next game will be at home against Saint Francis (2-3) on Friday, December 4th.