In sizing up North Carolina, Maryland's focus is on rebounding

It was Feb. 4, and Maryland trailed by just three points at Comcast Center when Tyler Zeller, North Carolina's 7-foot senior, missed a shot with 2:37 left.

The Tar Heels got the offensive rebound. Then they got another. Then another. Then John Henson hit a shot to put North Carolina up by five.

It was a particularly deflating stretch for the Terps, who never challenged again. For sheer frustration, it probably ranked up there for Maryland with the sight of Henson dunking emphatically with one second to go. That play irked the Terps and coach Mark Turgeon because the Tar Heels were up by seven points and could have dribbled out the clock.

On Wednesday night, the Terps (16-12, 6-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) get a rematch in Chapel Hill, N.C., with the sixth-ranked Tar Heels (25-4, 12-2) who have won 10 of their past 11 games. Turgeon was intent on making sure his players' rebounding lapses were foremost in their minds.

"Rebounding and transition defense is really the key," Turgeon said Tuesday. "We'll show them clips of not rebounding. They [the Tar Heels] are a pretty special rebounding team."

The game poses perhaps the biggest challenge of the season for Maryland. North Carolina ranks first in the nation in rebounding. The Tar Heels' rebounding margin of plus-11.4 is more than twice that of any other ACC team.

Turgeon has lamented that his team is flirting with being out-rebounded for the season. Maryland's rebounding margin is plus-1.8.

Maryland has particularly struggled with rebounding on the road. The Terps have only one win this season — over Clemson — in an opponent's arena.

"Rebounding is mental. It's whether you want it or not," said freshman Nick Faust (City), a good rebounder for a guard. He had a season-high eight rebounds against Miami on Feb. 21.

In his media session at Comcast Center, Turgeon acknowledged being not quite himself. He seemed more tired and dissatisfied than usual — the result, he said, of Maryland's loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday. "I didn't handle Saturday very well," Turgeon said.

In losing to the Yellow Jackets, who had lost 10 of their previous 11 games, Maryland missed a chance to climb to .500 in conference play.

"Losing is no fun, and 7-7 sounds a lot better than 6-8 — and knowing what we have this week ahead of us," Turgeon said.

Wednesday night's game again pits Turgeon against North Carolina coach Roy Williams, a former boss and mentor.

In a conference call this week, Turgeon was not inclined to revisit the subject of Henson's dunk in the final moments of the first game — a potentially awkward moment for Turgeon and Williams.

"I don't want to get into that again," Turgeon said. "I never try to score during that situation, but that doesn't mean everybody else has to do it that way."

Williams said after the game: "I probably would have liked it better if John hadn't gone in and dunked it. That's because of my feelings for Turge that I didn't want it to end like that."

By necessity, Turgeon said, his focus Tuesday was on rebounding and transition defense. He said the first game between the teams is history.

"What I ask is every time a shot goes up, we at least hit a body," Turgeon said.



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