by Mike Potter
CARMICHAEL AUDITORIUM/CHAPEL HILL UNC hosts defending ACC champion Maryland in a regionally televised marquee battle of teams that have been headed in opposite directions for the last few days.
The Tar Heels (14-3, 1-1 ACC) are ranked No. 10 nationally, but lost at former conference doormat Virginia Tech on Thursday night on the heels of their blowout defeat at No. 1 Connecticut.
Meanwhile the Terps (14-3, 2-1), who were blown out by 25 in their ACC opener at N.C. State but have since beaten Virginia on the road and also topped Boston College. UNC is favored, but an upset would likely get Maryland into the Top 25.
It's the first time Carmichael has been over half full since it was reopened Dec. 29 following a year and a half of renovations. And there are about 100 active Maryland fans behind the Terps' bench.
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell has shaken up her starting lineup, going with freshman Krista Gross in the backcourt along with Italee Lucas and She'la White, and Laura Broomfield and Chay Shegog (pictured) up front. The bottom line is that the Tar Heels break their losing streak, winning 75-64 and ending a two-game slide in the series.
The Tar Heels get out quickly, going up 18-7 on a Shegog bucket with 11:11 left in the first half. But the Terps recover to go up 30-29 on a Lori Bjork 3-pointer with 2:26 left in the half, and the teams go to the locker room tied at 33-33.
UNC takes the lead for good on a White jumper with 18:16 left, but needs a while to get control. It's still only 54-52 following a pair of Kim Rodgers free throws with 8:35 to go, but that's the Terps' last gasp. Cetera DeGraffenreid hits back-to-back layups, the latter on a reverse scoop from Lucas, and the Tar Heels finally pull away to win by double digits.
Shegog leads the Tar Heels, tying her career high of 17 points, while Lucas chips in 12.Broomfield adds nine to go with her 10 rebounds.
Bjork paces Maryland with 18 points while Rodgers adds 11.
UNC shoots 39.7 percent from the floor to Maryland's 35.5. The Terps eke out a 46-45 win on the boards, but commit 23 turnovers to a season-low 12 for UNC.
They said it ...
UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell: "We're getting better and that's the biggest thing. We've got different people stepping up. We were able to get the ball inside more. At halftime I really challenged Italee and Cetera to carry the team. They're juniors, but they've really got to be the leaders of our team. Chay again had a good game, and we made some big baskets when we needed to. Maryland's a lot like us. They've got some talent, but they're young. I'm just trying to find what (starters) are going to work. I'm trying to find the right ones that can get the job done."
Maryland coach Brenda Frese: "I'm really proud with how hard we played. It was a well-fought game with both teams going back and forth. From our end, we've just got to play smarter. When you come on the road and turn the ball over 23 times and shoot from the free-throw line like we did (13-for-25) you've just got to get better. ... I think obviously we now know how hard you've got to play every possession. We are playing hard for 40 minutes, and I am pleased with this young team that we understand that. If we can improve in other areas I think we'll be fine."
Shegog: "The losses pushed us to go harder. After the UConn game we were like 'Let's go 14-0 in the ACC,' but then the Virginia Tech game didn't go in our favor. We were in a jam. It felt like we were going 24 hours to get better."
Lucas: "Like coach was saying, the team needs me and 'T' (DeGraffenreid) to step up in the area of offense. Our defense was there the first half, but that's just not enough. I took coach's challenge and ran with it. That was fun."
What does it all mean?
That UNC is back on track after the losses, and that Maryland is a whole lot better team than the one that showed up at N.C. State 10 days earlier.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
DeGraffenreid's reverse layup at 6:58 to make it 58-52.
UNC leads 36-30.
UNC: Won 1.
UM: Lost 1.
Maryland vs. Miami, Thursday, 7 p.m.
UNC vs. Clemson, Friday, 8:30 p.m.