COLLEGE PARK - A blowout might've felt better to Sean Mosley than what actually transpired Saturday at Comcast Center because to the Maryland senior, close is no longer good enough.
Rather than be uplifted by another competitive contest against one of the top teams in the nation, Mosley just looked disappointed and drained.
It didn't matter that his team had played a strong first half, held the lead on fifth-ranked North Carolina inside the final 10 minutes and hung around until late. Even though Mosley, coach Mark Turgeon and the rest of the Terrapins can keep pointing out signs of progress, it doesn't make the mounting losses feel any better - the latest being an 83-74 defeat to the Tar Heels.
Maryland (13-9, 3-5 ACC) reached the conference season's midpoint having dropped two in a row and five of six, including losses to No. 7 Duke, No. 21 Florida State and No. 5 North Carolina (20-3, 7-1), where the Terps led in the second half of each.
"It's frustrating because you fight hard for 36, 37 minutes and then at the end of the day, we're walking out the door with a loss," Mosley said. "So it's not something you're happy about. We're getting better, but getting better isn't going to get it done here in the ACC."
Terrell Stoglin scored 20 points to lead four in double figures for Maryland. But rebounding woes, foul trouble and poor decisions late led to the Terps' undoing.
North Carolina outrebounded Maryland 46-39 and took advantage of the fact that the home team had four key players with at least three fouls for the last 10 minutes.
Point guard Pe'Shon Howard was among them, and the Terps struggled to run the offense while he sat on the bench.
Turgeon was most troubled, however, with his team's difficulty on the boards, something which was aided along by the Heels' length and size.
"We couldn't rebound," Turgeon said. "That's something I'm on these guys about. It was the No. 1 key to the game for us. ... I've never had more trouble getting a team to be more physical on box-outs. We've worked on it. We've talked about it.
"If we just could've got a couple rebounds in there, it might've been a different outcome."
The Terps gave themselves a chance against the Tar Heels by taking a 40-37 lead into halftime and growing it to nine 2 minutes, 35 seconds after the break.
However, North Carolina stormed back behind forward Tyler Zeller (22 points), guard Kendall Marshall (16 assists), forward Harrison Barnes (18 points) and forward John Henson (17 points, 12 rebounds).
Less than five minutes after Maryland took its largest lead, the Heels had drawn even at 50-50 with 12:40 to go thanks to an 11-2 run.
The Terps reasserted themselves on a James Padgett layup and three straight points from Stoglin to take a 57-52 lead. But UNC responded by scoring 13 of the game's next 16 points.
A Barnes 3-pointer gave the Heels their first edge since the middle of the first half, 59-57 with 9:18 on the clock, and Carolina then pushed its lead to 65-60.
A 5-1 Terps run, capped by a Stoglin drive, cut the margin to 70-69 with 3:29 to play. But that was Maryland's last field goal until 12.7 seconds remained, letting the Tar Heels finish off the win, which Henson punctuated with a dunk in the final seconds that Turgeon felt was in poor taste.
But the coach was more displeased with his team's play when a win was still attainable.
"I was disappointed in some of the things we did down the stretch," Turgeon said, in part referring to Stoglin forcing shots without running the offense or sharing the ball with his teammates.
Stoglin said he's still working on that, but didn't seem bothered by his own play late even though he missed four straight attempts between his layup that cut it to one and his field goal with 12.7 seconds remaining.
"At the end of the game, I feel like I should take more shots, so that's what I try to do," he said.
Alex Len continued his resurgence, finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks. It was his second consecutive double-digit scoring effort after six straight with five points or fewer.
Mosley and Faust added 11 points apiece in helping the Terps make it a game. But even with those efforts, Maryland dropped another one.
"There are no moral victories, but I'm proud of my group," Turgeon said. "We had them right there."