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Consistent Robert Carter Jr. wants Terps to be at their best, especially vs. Tar Heels

Maryland forward Robert Carter Jr. drives in the second half of a game against Georgetown, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in College Park.
Maryland forward Robert Carter Jr. drives in the second half of a game against Georgetown, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015, in College Park. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

When Robert Carter Jr. left the game with a few minutes remaining in Saturday's 80-63 victory over Cleveland State at Xfinity Center, the junior forward seemed a bit frustrated.

It wasn't necessarily how he played, since the transfer from Georgia Tech finished with team-highs of 17 points and eight rebounds.

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Carter was a bit miffed about how lackadaisical the No. 2 Terps appeared until early in the second half, when they erased a couple of earlier one-point deficits during an 8-0 run to start the half.

"We could have played a little better, we just have to continue to work hard," Carter said after the game. "Just being a captain of this team, a leader of this team, you always want to see us at our best. When you start off a little slow, especially going into the game we're going into next week, I wanted to be better."

The game Carter was referring to was Tuesday's road game at No. 9 North Carolina. It marks Maryland's first trip back to Chapel Hill since the 2013-14 season, the school's final year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Carter had played there, too, while at Georgia Tech.

As a freshman, Carter scored nine points and pulled down 12 rebounds in a 79-63 loss to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill and had nine points and eight rebounds in a 70-58 loss to North Carolina in Atlanta. Carter was out with a torn meniscus as a sophomore when the Yellow Jackets played North Carolina.

"It's exciting, their fans are very passionate like our fans," Carter said. "It's going to be pretty much our team versus their entire arena."

Carter has been one of Maryland's most consistent players this season, scoring in double figures every game (13.0 average, second behind Melo Trimble) and the team's top rebounder (7.0 per game). One of the reasons Carter left Georgia Tech after two years was to expand his game and become more of a "stretch-4" -- a shooting power forward -- than a traditional back-to-the-basket player.

After missing his first six 3-point shots this season, Carter has made his last three, including two in the win over Cleveland State.

"Just taking better shots, hit shots, I'm going to keep shooting, that's something I work on every day," he said.

Already one of the best low-post players on the team, Carter's ability to hit open jump shots will help space the floor for those who want to drive and make it impossible for opposing teams to double up on Trimble or anyone else for that matter.

"With our team, we're always going to be freed up a little, it's hard to come double because we've got a lot of weapons on the outside to make shots," he said. "That's pretty much my game, I'm a versatile guy, hard to guard, play inside and out, so that's just an advantage that's going to help any team I play on."

Carter's play in practice last year after transferring has suddenly materialized on the court, particularly in the last two games. In the championship game of the Cancun Challenge, a 23-point win over Rhode Island, Carter finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, including one in which the 6-foot-9, 238-pound forward ran the court and finished with a finger roll at the rim.

"He's been terrific the last two games, my gosh," Turgeon said Monday. "Very efficient offensively. He's feeling very comfortable. It started in practice and kind of carried over to the games. He's just at a really high level offensively. He can really shoot it. He wasn't getting the opportunity, wasn't shooting the ball well [earlier]. When he shoots it like that, it makes it even harder to guard us."

Carter said that his ability to kick out passes from double-teams to shooters such as Trimble and sophomore wing Jared Nickens, who tied a career-high with 16 points against Cleveland State with the help of four 3-point shots made among the six he tried, is "one of the reasons why I'm here and why our team is really good. If I'm drawing double-teams, we're still going to make shots because we've got great shooters."

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