CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A season that reached its peak mor than two months ago for the University of Maryland basketball team ended in a blaze of ignominy yesterday against top-ranked North Carolina, with the school's worst Atlantic Coast Conference tournament loss in 30 years.
After staying close with the seemingly disinterested Tar Heels for the first 15 minutes, the Terrapins were blown out, 102-66, before a sellout crowd of 23,532 at the Charlotte Coliseum. The quarterfinal defeat ended a 12-16 season for Maryland, its worst record in four seasons under Gary Williams.
The margin of defeat was the largest for a Maryland team in an ACC tournament game since the Terps lost to Wake Forest by 39 points in the opening round of the 1963 tournament. It was also the most one-sided defeat for Maryland since Williams returned to his alma mater four years ago.
But coming only 18 hours after the Terps defeated North Carolina State in the preliminary game, it was not a total shock. Maryland couldn't practice or prepare -- the Terps walked through some plays and defensive assignments at breakfast yesterday -- before taking on the nation's No. 1 team.
"You show up and play," said Williams, whose team lost 11 of its last 13 games. "We played all right for a while. But they've gotten a lot tougher defensively since the last time we played them."
Trailing 32-27 with five minutes left in the first half, Maryland seemed to come apart after a questionable foul call on senior forward Evers Burns with 4:41 to go and a technical foul on freshman forward Mario Lucas with 2:21 left.
It started when Burns bumped North Carolina's Brian Reese along the baseline. One second after the whistle blew, Reese threw in a short jumper and converted the three-point play. After the Tar Heels increased their lead to 38-27, the Terps cut it back to six before Lucas was called for hitting the ball before it was inbounded.
"I forget what the lead was, but it's hard enough to beat the No. 1 team when everything goes your way," said senior guard Kevin McLinton, who along with Burns and center Chris Kerwin played his last game at Maryland. "When you have those kind of things happens, it makes it that much more demoralizing."
The three-point play by Reese (16 points) started a 19-7 run to close out the half.
It only got worse for Maryland in the second half. North Carolina was relentless in its defensive pressure, scoring most of its points in transition. The Tar Heels also hit 26 of 29 free throws.
The margin of victory was the largest ever by a North Carolina team in the ACC tournament, and the fourth-largest in the 40-year history of the tournament. It put the 27-3 Tar Heels into today's first semifinal against sixth-seeded Virginia, which upset ranked, third-seeded Wake Forest, 61-57, in the first game here yesterday.
"We never expected anything like that," said North Carolina coach Dean Smith, whose Tar Heels beat Maryland by 28 points in Chapel Hill in January and by 14 last month in College Park. "They had to be tired."
Said Burns, "I'm not going to blame it on our legs. It wasn't because of our legs. I hate to say this, but Carolina out-hustled us."
And, as has been the case often this season for Maryland, the Tar Heels out-muscled the Terps as well. Senior forward George Lynch had 22 points and 15 rebounds -- "I thought he had a jillion," Smith said of Lynch's scoring total -- and Reese added 16. Neither Reese nor junior center Eric Montross, who had 11 points, started after coming 80 seconds late to a team meeting yesterday.
Freshman forward Exree Hipp led the Terps with 19 points, and freshman guard Johnny Rhodes scored 15. Burns finished his career with a six-for-18 shooting performance for 14 points, but the senior from Woodlawn had 11 rebounds before fouling out with a little under six minutes remaining. McLinton had four points and Kerwin failed to score.
Asked if it was a disappointing way to end his career, Burns said, "Sure it is, but anything you do in life is hard. Nothing is given to you."
Certainly not by North Carolina.
Certainly not in the ACC tournament.
Gary Williams at Maryland
Season ... ... ... ... ... Overall ... ... ... ... ... ACC*
1989-90 .. ... ... ... ... 19-14 ... ... ... ... .. .. 6-8
1990-91 .. ... ... ... ... 16-12 ... ... ... ... .. .. 5-9
1991-92 .. ... ... ... ... 14-15 ... ... ... ... .. .. 5-11
1992-93 .. ... ... ... ... 12-16 ... ... ... ... .. .. 2-14
Totals ... ... ... ... ... 61-57 ... ... ... ... .. .. 18-42
* -- Regular-season record
Dean of hoops
Dean Smith moved into a tie for third place on the NCAA's all-time victory list with yesterday's win over Maryland:
Coach, School ... ... ... ... ... ... ... Wins
Adolph Rupp, Kentucky ... ... ... ... ... 876
C. Gaines, Wins.-Salem State ... .. .. .. 828
Henry Iba, Oklahoma State ... .. .. .. .. 767
Dean Smith, N. Carolina ... ... ... .. .. 767