Winter takes on chilliest of overtones for Terps

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Isn't April supposed to be the cruelest month?

Someone ought to tell that to January, since it was here, in this very nascent month of the ACC season, that an entire conference schedule for Maryland was so abruptly and thoroughly cast in stormy weather.


If you play in the ACC, you have no choice. You run with the big dogs of college basketball day after day.

Or, in the case of playing North Carolina, you sprint with the big dogs wearing powder blue, and you do it until your legs are dead and your spirit isn't far behind.


This is why the Terps' starters were on the bench when the buzzer mercifully rang yesterday. Their plane couldn't take off fast enough.

Credit Maryland for trying - at least for the first 15 minutes, before a 32-32 game turned into the biggest Tar Heels rout of the Terps since 1993.

Fact: North Carolina last won a national title that year.

Prediction: North Carolina, the highest-scoring team in the nation that just severely reduced Maryland's scoring average, will extend their 15 Final Four appearances this year to 16.

"Early on, they tried to run with us," Tar Heels center Sean May said. "Coach said, 'Keep running, eventually they'll break.' We don't think any team can run with us."

The morning mist along Tobacco Road finally lifted yesterday, and when it did, the ghosts of McAdoo, Worthy, Jordan, Perkins, Wallace, Stackhouse and Carter were joined in the ritual trouncing of ACC opponents by a few fresh-faced Tar Heels.

By the time May, Raymond Felton and Rashad McCants were done playing the run-and-gun inside the House that Dean Smith Built, Maryland was not only a 109-75 loser, the Terps were reduced to a nasty pile of Tobacco Road kill.

May said he recognized the moment the Terps were toast.


"On one possession near the end of the first half, they had five guys on a break and we wound up crossing the court twice with only two of their guys getting back. It seems like they just got tired," he said.

But not as tired as anyone who sat through the rest of the nationally televised game.

Afterward, inside the press room, photographers from North Carolina newspapers were discussing the distinct possibility that they were chronicling an NCAA title season.

We'd like to think that kind of talk could serve as bulletin board material for the Terps. The truth is, Maryland won't have any time to indulge in the greatest smack talk in college basketball: Which ACC team is the powerhouse of college basketball?

The only thing the Turtles should fear is themselves - and their coach, who has the daunting task of trying to extract some semblance of a competitive season.

And who has the time, with another trip to North Carolina set for Tuesday, when Maryland must face No. 4 Wake Forest.


Yesterday, Gary Williams compared the Terps to a team that is rebuilding. He lost freshman Hassan Fofana, who will transfer. He's gotten spotty work out of Travis Garrison, who has talked about his energy level.

While the Terps have lost only one player from last year, when they ran off a surprising string to steal the ACC tournament, it seems like a different group.

"Guys are a year older and they get different interests and different things happen," Williams said, strangely resigned after the shellacking.

Just last week, Williams bristled at the inordinate amount of attention not being paid to his Terrapins.

It bugged him, all those feature stories about North Carolina players appearing in newspapers and on TV stations that found their way to his College Park office.

They were all about May, McCants, Felton, who yesterday pushed the ball fast and hard to spur the Tar Heels' blistering run at the end of the first half.


The Terps left the Tar Heel State in a state of shock, a result of playing an anticipated ACC matchup in which you're shown to be out of your league.

"It hurts. It's embarrassing," Nik Caner-Medley said. "They're a real good team. We have some things we need to do in order to play."

This was definitely the confessions of an ACC team that might quickly fall further from the upper crust of college basketball, which in the ACC means the rest of the league.

"If this becomes a pattern, then we'll have a problem," Williams said.

From the look of things inside the Dean Smith Center yesterday, there's not going to be much of a solution to a problem like the Tar Heels.

April already feels just around the corner for some of the big dogs.


For the Terps, it's the dead of winter.

The last time the Terps ...

Gave up more than 108 points: Feb. 27, 1991 (North Carolina State 114, Maryland 91)

Lost to North Carolina by more than 33 points: March 12, 1993 (in ACC tournament: North Carolina 102, Maryland 66)

Lost to anybody by more than 33 points: March 18, 2000 (in NCAA tournament: UCLA 105, Maryland 70)

Lost in ACC regular-season game by more than 33 points: Jan. 2, 1970 (N.C. State 91, Maryland 57)


Gave up 100 points in two separate games in a season: 1994-95 (Georgia Tech 100, Maryland 91; North Carolina 100, Maryland 90)