On Thursday, No. 10 Maryland's perfect record at Comcast Center will truly be put to the test, as they try to get revenge on the one team who has beaten them in conference play this year: No. 11/16 North Carolina.
Since the Tar Heels beat the Terps, 60-57, back on Jan. 3 in Chapel Hill, neither team has lost, though UNC only defeated lowly Virginia Tech and N.C. State by under five points each.
Since Jan. 3, Maryland has blown out both Virginia Tech and N.C. State by 20-plus and did the same to Miami, while also coming back to beat Georgia Tech and holding off a late rally to top No. 22/21 Florida State. They now stand at 15-3 overall and 6-1 in the ACC and are on a five-game win streak.
North Carolina, despite playing a lot of close ACC games, is tied with No. 4/5 Duke at 6-0 in the conference and is an impressive 18-1 overall. Their only loss came in embarrassing fashion, 102-57, in Knoxville at the hands of No. 9 Tennessee. They are on an 11-game win streak since that contest on Dec. 2.
With Duke's fiasco of a second half against UConn Monday, they finally showed a sign of weakness, something both UNC and Maryland will look to take advantage of. And Thursday's game at Comcast will go a long way toward determining who is that second best ACC team behind Duke.
With UNC already being up 1-0 on the Terps this year, they are probably pretty confident that second best team can be them. Their goal will be to replicate the second half defense they played on Jan. 3 in Chapel Hill, when they held Maryland to just 22 points on 23.5 percent shooting from the field.
Meanwhile, the Terps, who are shooting 47.4 percent on the season - good for third in the ACC - need to score in a variety of ways and get lots of scorers involved so that they can be the great offense they are capable of being.
On Jan. 3, Tianna Hawkins and Alyssa Thomas accounted for exactly two-thirds of Maryland's points. Those two are first and second in the ACC in scoring, and it certainly isn't a bad thing that Maryland relies on them a great deal. On the season they are scoring just under one-half (47.1 percent) of the team's points.
But for Maryland to be truly dominant and avoid the scoring lulls that have led to their losses, they need an inside-outside game that takes pressure off their stars. Hawkins and Thomas both have mid-range games, but they do the majority of their scoring close to the basket. When Maryland's perimeter players are also knocking down shots, that's when they are at their best.
North Carolina hasn't played since last Thursday when they beat Virginia at home, so they should be well rested as they go for a regular season sweep of the Terps. Maryland, on the other hand, played Georgia Tech on Sunday. UNC is going to be their toughest test yet at home, but that's all the more reason for Brenda Frese's crew, who is 9-0 at their place, to be fired up and ready to defend Comcast.