CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - It got away from the Maryland Terrapins so fast. With every Raymond Felton drive or Rashad McCants open jump shot, an afternoon that once looked so promising for the Terps became more and more embarrassing.
At the nine-minute mark of the first half, the 22nd-ranked Terps had a five-point lead, weathering third-ranked North Carolina's fast start and quieting a boisterous crowd of 21,750 at the Dean Smith Center.
By the 16-minute mark of the second half, most of the Terps' starting five were on the bench as Maryland was staring at its most lopsided loss in nearly five seasons.
In their first Atlantic Coast Conference road game against a team many believe to be the nation's best, the Terps yesterday were whipped by the Tar Heels in every way, 109-75, to give North Carolina coach Roy Williams his 450th win. For Maryland's Gary Williams, his worst loss ever in an ACC regular-season game was less memorable.
"You get something like this that happens once in a while when there are situations if you are rebuilding," said the Terps' Williams, whose team could be unranked for the first time this season when it heads back to North Carolina to play Wake Forest on Tuesday. "I didn't expect it today, but when the other team does everything better than you did, that's a possibility. That's what happened."
Added Terps junior guard John Gilchrist: "They took it to us. They were clicking on all cylinders."
Beating the Terps down the court for dunks and open shots at will, the Tar Heels (13-1, 2-0 in ACC) shot 56.5 percent from the field and had seven players in double figures.
The Terps (9-3, 1-1), who were torched for 101 points by George Washington a month ago, had never in 162 meetings given up this many points to the Tar Heels. They hadn't allowed this many points to any team since they surrendered 114 to North Carolina State in 1991.
And this was a game that the Terps actually led 29-24 with 9:03 to play in the first half, leaving Roy Williams so annoyed with his team that he slammed and broke his clipboard. North Carolina closed the first half on a 23-5 run and led 47-34 at halftime.
"They pretty much ran us off the court," said junior forward Nik Caner-Medley. "In the first half, we did a good job of slowing down the pace, but we wore down and the lead kept getting bigger and bigger. We obviously have some things that we need to do in order to play with a team that good."
Junior guard Chris McCray, who was just 3-for-17 from the field and missed several open shots while the Tar Heels were surging late in the first half, seemed to take the loss, which he called the worst of his Terps career, harder than most of his teammates.
"I am here to make shots and I didn't do that," said McCray, who was 0-for-6 from three-point range as the Terps were 2-for-22 overall. "I have to put this loss on my back."
There was plenty of blame to go around. Maryland shot just 38 percent from the field and was out-rebounded 49-28. Sophomore center Ekene Ibekwe had only three points and fouled out with 8:35 to play.
Caner-Medley (10 points), who was harassed by the crowd for having his shorts on backward, finally asserted himself early in the second half, scoring six straight points, but all that did was trim the Terps' deficit to 72-53.
"The ACC season has started and it's too late to be [playing] like this," said freshman forward James Gist.
Said North Carolina's Williams, who reminded his team of Maryland's 40-point thumping of the Tar Heels in College Park during the 2002-03 season before the game: "I'm extremely impressed with my team. ... I'm not dumb enough to think it was just our play - because I don't think it was a good day for Maryland."
Never allowing Maryland to get back into the game like it did last year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina led by as many as 42 points in the second half and hit the 100-point plateau with 4:29 to play. McCants estimated that the Tar Heels' broke the Terps' will as early as the 15-minute mark of the second half.
Gary Williams tried everything. He yanked three of his starters at the 16:35 mark. He had point guards Sterling Ledbetter and Gilchrist (11 points) on the court at the same time.
"I was just trying to find guys who would play well," said Williams.
And there was injury added to insult. Gilchrist, effective early in taking Felton (12 points, six assists) off the dribble, slammed into North Carolina center Sean May late in the first half and admitted his back was bothering him the rest of the game. He played only eight second-half minutes.
After making several athletic plays to help give the Terps the 29-24 lead, Gist had to leave the game because he landed awkwardly on his right ankle. He returned and then hurt his left hand in the second half, an injury that he seemed more concerned with after the game.
It was a bleak picture for the Terps, who now have all of two days to prepare for the fourth-ranked Demon Deacons.
"A loss is a loss and it hurts just as bad," said Caner-Medley. "Obviously when you get beat that bad, it hurts your pride. You are embarrassed. In order for us to become a better team, it really needs to hurt. We really need to come back strong."
Next for Maryland
Matchup: No. 22 Maryland (9-3, 1-1) vs. No. 4 Wake Forest (13-1, 2-0)
Site: Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem, N.C.
When: Tuesday, 9 p.m.
TV/Radio: Chs. 54, 20/WBAL (1090 AM)