On Wednesday, North Carolina earned a first-day bye in next week’s ACC tournament.
Maryland, meanwhile, took another step closer to saying bye-bye to its NCAA tournament hopes.
A quick closer look at the Tar Heels’ 79-68 win over the Terps at Comcast Center:
Turning point: Trailing 27-24, UNC ended the first half with a 10-0 run of five different scorers, while the Terrapins went zero for six and committed two turnovers. UNC then extended that breakaway to 15-2 to open the second half, taking a 39-29 advantage on a Bullock 3-pointer.
The Tar Heels led by as many as 16 points, but Maryland cut it to 63-57 with less than six minutes left, at which point it pressed UNC into back-to-back turnovers. Tar Heels point guard Marcus Paige buried a 3-pointer, however, to help his team get its cushion back, and the Terps got no closer.
Player(s) of the game: Hairston finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, and Bullock added 19 points and 12 rebounds, marking his third double-double in his past four games.
What it means for the Tar Heels: More momentum. More confidence. UNC is now 6-1 since it went to a four-guard starting lineup, and although it finished just outside of the Associated Press Top 25 this week, it’s looking more and more like a top-20 team. Because of various possible tiebreakers, the victory secured a top-four finish in the ACC standings -- and thus, an off-day during the league tournament’s first day. That’s important, because no team has ever won four games in four days at the ACC tourney.
What it means for the Terps: Another bounce downward in their yo-yo late season. Maryland looked NCAA tournament-bound not too long ago -- Feb. 16 -- when it upset then-second-ranked Duke. But since then, the Terps are 2-3, with road losses to Boston College and Georgia Tech. With a No. 68 RPI entering this game and now a 2-4 record against teams with a top-25 RPI, Maryland needed this win as a résumé booster. Now, it may have to win the ACC tournament’s automatic bid to become NCAA-bound.
Etc.: UNC got a couple of injury scares early in the second half. With 18:41 left, Hairston’s right leg slid out from under him on a drive to the wing, and he left the game briefly with a strained groin. He returned a couple of minutes later, only to have teammate James Michael McAdoo slip under the basket and land hard on his already-sore back. McAdoo returned shortly thereafter, too, and finished with 10 points.
Next up: The Tar Heels host No. 3 Duke on Saturday in the regular-season finale; the Terps play at Virginia on Sunday.