CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- A quick look at sixth-ranked North Carolina’s 88-64 victory over Maryland at the Smith Center on Wednesday night:
How it happened: On senior night, it was senior forward Tyler Zeller’s night; the 7-footer scored 30 points, including shooting 20-of-23 from the free throw line, a Smith Center record (and one off the school record) for made freebies.
It wasn’t seamless early, though.
Both teams shot worse than 40 percent in the first half, as Zeller and junior forward John Henson combined for 25 of the Tar Heels’ 36 points en route to a 36-25 lead. Maryland turned it over 11 times before the break, while the Tar Heels committed six turnovers and outrebounded the Terps by only two.
The Tar Heels were sloppy, so much so that coach Roy Williams stripped off his sports coat in frustration after a bad pass with 15:40 left, with his team leading by eight. Terps coach Mark Turgeon showed some angst of his own, picking up a technical foul about four minutes later, when his team trailed by 11. UNC, though, followed that with a 16-0 run, breaking open the game.
And the only real question then was whether Zeller would break his career scoring record. In the end, he came up two points short of tying it. But the ACC player of the year candidate took his curtain call with 6:39 left -- hugging Williams, high-fiving his teammates on the bench and waving to the chanting, standing, appreciative crowd.
Henson added 19 points for the Tar Heels, who shot 39.4 percent.
Nick Faust led the Terps with 17 points.
What it means: The victory kept the Tar Heels tied atop the ACC standings with Duke at 13-2; the rivals will face off Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the regular-season league title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Expect a focused showdown. Not only will UNC be trying to avenge its one-point loss earlier this month -- when Devils freshman Austin Rivers buried a game-winning 3-pointer to secure a double-digit comeback -- but both teams are trying to keep their hopes alive for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Maryland now has lost three of its past four games.
Hubbub: It took a while, but North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall set the single-season school assists record with about 18 minutes left on a pass to Harrison Barnes. Entering the game, he needed four to pass Ed Cota (who had 284 in 1999-2000), and Marshall finished with eight. He now needs only 15 more to pass former Georgia Tech guard Craig Neal for the ACC record; he tossed 303 in 1987-88.
Hubbub, too: As expected, senior walk-ons Stewart Cooper, David Dupont and Patrick Crouch joined senior reserve Justin Watts and regular senior starter Zeller in the opening lineup for the quintet’s final game at the Smith Center. The score was tied at 2 when the normal starters joined Zeller at the 17:55 mark.
What’s next: The Tar Heels will face the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday. Maryland hosts Virginia on Sunday.