Tar Heels turn back Terps, 79-76
Clinging to a three-point lead with six seconds to play, North Carolina coach Roy Williams went over with his team what Maryland might do on its final play of the game.
The options that he went over didn’t include what the Terrapins did, running two decoys off screens before guard Logan Aronhalt also curled around and became open about 30 feet from the basket,
“When they started running the play, we recognized that was what they were going to do and started yelling at the guys but that was after the play had started,” Williams said,
Aronhalt, the Terps’ best 3-point shooter at 44 percent, wound up launching a rushed shot that game up short from about 25 feet.
“I think he was the third guy coming around,” Williams said. “I think he rushed it a little bit. I don’t think our defense made him rush that shot.”
The Tar Heels grabbed the rebound and dribbled out the clock, securing a 79-76 victory and a berth in the championship game against Miami today at 1 p.m.
The play was designed for Aronhalt to take the shot, according to Maryland coach Mark Turgeon.
“Logan is a pretty good shooter,” Turgeon said. “I’ve got a confidence in him. He was shooting 48 percent a couple of weeks ago but hasn’t shot as well lately. He could have curled (around the screen) a little tighter.
“But, it’s hard to get an open 3 and we got one. Execution was tremendous. We all thought Logan was going to make it. We were talking about what we were going to do defense when he made, we were so confident that he was going to do it.”
For most of the second half, the Terrapins looked as if they would have no chance at the end as Carolina went up by double digits, the last time by 68-58 with 7:40 left. Maryland started chipping away, getting as close as one when Alex Len scored a bucket that was the last two of his team-leading 20 points.
UNC pushed the margin out to five, the last time on the second of two crucial shots by Marcus Paige near the end. But, Aronhalt stuck back a follow shot to make it 78-76 with 19 seconds. P.J. Hairston, playing with his non-shooting hand wrapped to protect an injury suffered in Friday night’s win over Florida State, was fouled on the inbounds play and made 1 of 2 free throws, giving Maryland its shot at forcing overtime.
“I was pleased with our play in the first half,” Williams said. “They played harder at times, smarter at times and had better coaching at times. But we made some plays and free throws that let us win.”
Reggie Bullock was a steadying force throughout the game for UNC as he scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds, dished four assists and had a steal. Dexter Strickland also scored 15, hitting 7 of 12 shots. James Michael McAdoo and Hairston had 13.
Hariston played 36 minutes with his hand held together by eight stitches after the webbing between his ring and middle finger was split open on Friday.
“Last night I thought I was going to die,” Hairston said. “I was in the training room with my mom holding my hand. They told me ‘OK, we’re going to clean it out and stitch on it, okay,’ and as soon as the alcohol and the soap hit my hand I kind of screamed for my life.
“And after it was stitched up, it was sore last night. I got medicine from the trainer and the team doctor, and they asked me how I felt this morning, and everything felt fine. It was sore. I was catching the ball before we came out for warmups, I was in the locker room throwing passes, me and Dexter, back and forth, and coming out in warmups, it felt fine. I was catching the ball fine, my shot was going in fine, everything felt fine, no difference.”