COLLEGE PARK - The North Carolina Tar Heels were nearly late for a date with the Maryland Terrapins yesterday, after spending 90 minutes trying to get from their Washington hotel to the Comcast Center on streets partially covered with snow from last week's storm.
In light of the abuse that awaited them, maybe Carolina should have kept the bus rolling all the way home to Chapel Hill.
The 13th-ranked Terps fully expected to beat the visiting Tar Heels. They did not imagine scoring 49 of the game's final 65 points and trouncing Carolina in a laugher by a 96-56 count, before 17,950 roaring fans.
In another striking example of how the picture has changed in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Terps lowered the boom on Carolina and its storied tradition by handing the Tar Heels the most lopsided loss in their 50-year history as an ACC member.
While sweeping the regular-season series for the second year in a row and beating Carolina for the fourth straight time - Maryland had not done that since winning five straight between 1930 and 1932 - the Terps also dropped the third-worst setback on the Tar Heels in the program's 93-year history.
This began as a somewhat competitive event, before mushrooming into a full-blown party. And everyone, from senior point guard Steve Blake to sophomore walk-on forward Darien Henry, was invited.
Eleven Maryland players scored, starting with Blake (game-high 18 points), senior guard Drew Nicholas (17 points) and senior center Ryan Randle (16 points), and continuing with the overwhelming bench play of sophomore guard Andre Collins, junior forward Jamar Smith and especially freshman point guard John Gilchrist. His 11-point, nine-rebound effort - both career highs - left the Tar Heels looking helpless.
"Back in Carolina's heyday, one of my dreams was to play in the Dean Dome, to see their pretty uniforms. They always had great teams," said Gilchrist, who lifted the Terps with excellent play in relief during last month's 81-66 victory at the Dean Smith Center. "I never imagined we'd have beaten them by 40. But it just shows you the times. It's 2003."
Maryland was playing its third game in six days, yet the Terps (17-7, 9-4) remained in a second-place tie with Duke in the ACC with a thunderous display of athleticism, depth, rebounding, defense, passing, shooting, everything.
Does anyone remember that the Tar Heels (14-12, 4-8) came out firing with pretty good proficiency from three-point range and hung around the Terps in the first half? Carolina actually was within four points at 25-21 with eight minutes to go in the half, despite torrid shooting by Maryland.
Does anyone remember that, after falling behind at the half, 45-32, Carolina opened the second half with an 8-2 run to cut the Terps' lead to 47-40 with 17:15 left in the game, causing a nervous stir in the stands and an angry sideline outburst from coach Gary Williams?
From that point, the game was a blur of bad moments for the team in blue and one of near-perfection for the defending regular-season conference and NCAA champions. And to think the Tar Heels had tip-off time extended by five minutes after their unpleasant ride from the Watergate Hotel only left them a half-hour to warm up.
"You never expect that. We were hot and they weren't, and the guys we were putting in there [off the bench] were hungry. They wanted to score. They have something to prove," said Williams, who enjoyed his 498th career victory and moved past former Maryland coach Lefty Driesell into fifth place with his 123rd ACC win.
"We got hot, we were shooting it, and we were playing great defense and not giving [Carolina] good looks [at the basket]. I thought today was going to be a tough day for us."
The Terps shot 58 percent, their best in league play this season, and it didn't matter which combination of players was on the floor, or which Carolina players were countering them. Maryland forced 20 turnovers, produced 28 assists, grabbed 48 rebounds to Carolina's 32, made 10 of 17 three-point shots, and got 42 points out of its bench. Carolina's reserves managed 17.
A year after winning at home by 33 over the Tar Heels - an 8-20 squad that was the worst in school history - Maryland anticipated more fight yesterday, especially with McDonald's All-America talent like sophomore forward Jawad Williams and freshmen Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton representing the Tar Heels.
What the Terps got was a young, thin Carolina team that was running out of gas before tip-off, then proceeded to roll over by the midpoint of the second half. The Tar Heels shot just 32.8 percent and fell apart over the game's final 11 minutes, as Maryland outscored them by a whopping 34-9 margin.
"Once you get up by so much, there's only so much [the Tar Heels] can do. We were just out there playing, and it was only a matter of time before the clock ran out," said Blake, who shot a perfect 4-for-4 from three-point range and added eight assists.
"Once we started making baskets and getting stops, we pretty much knew the game was over. It was just going out there and having fun the rest of the game. We enjoyed it. If you beat anybody by 40, you're happy."
If there was such a thing as big shots in such a rout, Blake provided them. His 18-footer, followed by a transition three-pointer, put the Terps up 43-29 late in the first half. Then, after the Terps started flat in the second half, Blake first hit a long three just before the shot clock expired, then banked in a 12-footer after making a steal on the Tar Heels' ensuing possession to make it 52-40 with 16:20 left.
From there, the game looked ridiculously easy for Maryland. It made the Tar Heels look small and slow with backups like Calvin McCall (six points, six rebounds), Smith (eight points), Collins (eight points) and Gilchrist, who extended the Terps' lead against several Carolina starters.
"I'm not used to losing this bad or anything like that," said Felton, who had eight points. "I'm upset, but I've got to get through it. You've got to be a man about it."
Said Nicholas: "We knew this wasn't the team that was No. 1 a couple of years ago. You can't look at the name across their chest, or you don't have a shot. We realize that Carolina felt this was a big game for them, but we weren't going to let them come in here and beat us."
Next for Terps
Matchup:Clemson (15-8) at No. 13 Maryland (17-7)
Site:Comcast Center, College Park
When:Tuesday, 7 p.m.
TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Maryland's most lopsided ACC victories:
Margin Date Score Opponent
46 1/10/1999 94-48 vs. N.C.S.
40 2/22/2003 96-56 vs. UNC
40 12/4/1953 81-41 at Clem.
35 3/3/2001 102-67 vs. Va.
35 3/2/1974 110-75 vs. Va.
N. Carolina Min FG FT Reb A F Pt
Williams 30 4-11 0-0 6 6 2 8
McCants 24 5-11 1-2 2 0 3 11
Noel 26 1-3 0-0 3 4 3 3
Felton 32 3-10 0-0 2 2 3 8
Scott 23 4-10 0-0 2 0 1 12
Holmes 6 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0
Grant 12 1-5 3-5 5 0 0 5
Sanders 14 0-3 0-0 5 0 1 0
Johnson 10 0-2 0-0 1 1 1 0
Manuel 23 3-8 3-4 6 1 0 9
Totals 200 21-64 7-11 32 14 14 56
Percentages: FG-.328, FT-.636. 3-point goals: 7-31, .226 (J Williams 0-5, R McCants 0-3, DNoel 1-2, R Felton 2-7, M Scott 4-10, J Holmes 0-1, W Johnson 0-2, J Manuel 0-1). Team rebounds: 0. Blocked shots: 6 (B Sanders 2, W Johnson, J Williams, D Grant, D Noel). Turnovers: 20 (M Scott 4, R Felton 4, J Manuel 2, R McCants 2, D Noel 2, B Sanders 2,D Grant 2, W Johnson, J Williams). Steals: 9 (R McCants 2, D Noel 2, B Sanders 2, W Johnson, J Manuel, R Felton).
Maryland Min FG FT Reb A F Pt
Cnr-Medley 12 2-3 0-0 5 2 2 5
Holden 27 0-2 0-1 1 1 2 0
Randle 25 7-11 2-2 7 2 3 16
Nicholas 29 6-12 2-2 1 7 2 17
Blake 29 7-10 0-2 3 8 2 18
Smith 15 4-4 0-1 4 1 1 8
Collins 10 4-6 0-1 1 3 0 8
Garrison 8 1-1 0-0 4 1 1 2
McCall 17 2-3 2-2 6 2 1 6
Gilchrist 14 5-9 0-1 9 1 2 11
McCray 6 0-1 0-0 0 0 1 0
Henry 4 1-3 0-0 3 0 1 2
Grinnon 4 1-4 0-0 1 0 1 3
Totals 200 40-69 6-12 45 28 19 96
Percentages: FG-.580, FT-.500. 3-point goals: 10-17, .588 (N Caner-Medley 1-2, D Nicholas 3-6, S Blake 4-4, A Collins 0-1, C McCall 0-1, J Gilchrist 1-1, M Grinnon 1-2). Team rebounds: 3. Blocked shots: 7 (T Holden 5, J Gilchrist, J Smith). Turnovers: 15 (S Blake 5, J Gilchrist 3, R Randle 2, T Holden, J Smith, N Caner-Medley, D Nicholas, A Collins). Steals: 14 (A Collins 4, R Randle 3, N Caner-Medley 2, J Smith 2, S Blake, T Holden, J Gilchrist).
North Carolina 32 24 - 56
Maryland 45 51 - 96
Technical fouls: None. A: 17,950. Officials: John Clougherty, Patrick Adams, Tom Lopes