Tierra Ruffin-Pratt scored 13 points to help lead her Tar Heels past the No. 8 team in the country. - Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE
Last year when these two teams met in Chapel Hill, Alyssa Thomas stole the show with a reverse layup at the buzzer that sent the game to overtime where the Terps would win, 78-72. This year, Maryland had no such luck forcing overtime and fell, 60-57.
Katie Rutan's potential game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer was no good as it hit off the front of the rim and allowed North Carolina (14-1, 2-0 ACC) to come away with a crucial win over a top 10 team and left Maryland (10-3, 1-1 ACC) scratching their heads for the third time this season, wondering: what happened to our offense?
Maryland played solid and looked like the better team in the first half Thursday night as they led, 35-29, at the break. But they shot an awful 23.5 percent from the field in the second half and only scored 22 points. North Carolina went on a 17-1 run to open that period and led by as much as 11. If not for some missed free throws by them on the opening attempts of one-and-ones, the game would have been a lot less nerve-racking for Tar Heel fans at the end. North Carolina won by a final score of 60-57.
Maryland's Tianna Hawkins scored a game-high 23 points and added 13 rebounds for a double-double. Meanwhile, Alyssa Thomas had 15 points and game-highs with 16 boards, six assists, four steals and also six turnovers. For North Carolina, their leading scorer, Tierra Ruffin-Pratt, and Brittany Rountree both dropped in 13, while center Waltiea Rolle scored 12.
The Tar Heels' resume coming into this game wasn't that impressive yet, though they were the No. 15/23 team in the nation. They had beaten Georgetown, a team that is no longer ranked, and Ohio State, a team that is only ranked (No. 24) in the USA TODAY/ESPN poll and not the AP poll. And they had been blown out, 102-57, by a team ranked lower than the Terps - No. 12/13 Tennessee.
Maryland had the opportunity to show that they were worthy of their top 10 ranking by comfortably defeating UNC like they did Nebraska and Delaware. Instead, the loss means they could be falling out of the top 10.
This game was on the road though and the Terps almost lost to UNC at Carmichael Arena last year too, when both teams were ranked in similar spots (Maryland in the top 10 at No. 5 and UNC at No. 25/23). The Tar Heels would eventually fade and not even make the NCAA tournament and the Terps blew them out later in the regular season in College Park.
A huge part of Maryland's identity is their dominance on their home court, so you've got to imagine they'll be thinking 'wait until we get these guys back at Comcast.'
But for now, this is a huge win for the Tar Heels, who lost to Maryland in overtime in that game they hosted last year. Their ability to hold on this time and complete the upset indicates that they don't intend on fading again this year.