North Carolina at Maryland

North Carolina (19-3, 6-1) at Maryland (13-8, 3-4), 4:00 PM, ESPN/ESPN3

Harrison Barnes is listed as questionable for this game with an ankle injury, but he should play and Carolina needs him to play well.

It’s hard to know what to make of Maryland’s double-overtime loss to Miami. The Terrapins never gave up, and their late comeback in regulation was impressive. But where was the Maryland team that fought so hard late in the game during the first 30-35 minutes? Still, Maryland fans will be up for North Carolina’s visit, if the Duke game was any indication. The Tar Heels arguably haven’t faced a crowd this raucous since Kentucky, which might be a good sign since that was Carolina’s best road performance this season. The Tar Heels struggled to make shots against an awful Wake Forest team on Wednesday night on the road and if they’re not able to make some in College Park – which has been a troublesome destination in recent years – they could be in trouble.

Stat to watch: Rebounding. Maryland is 12-1 this year and 3-0 in ACC play when they out-rebound or have the same number of rebounds as their opponents. The Terrapins are 1-7 on the year and 0-4 when being out-rebounded. Carolina is 16-0 when it out-rebounds opponents and 3-3 when it doesn’t. The Tar Heels are also 13-0 when pulling down more offensive rebounds than their opponents and 4-3 when they don’t. It’s not like it’s just that simple of a formula, but both teams are certainly more comfortable when they can retrieve their own missed shots. But Maryland is coming off of a struggle on the backboards at Miami on Wednesday: Maryland led the rebounding 21-18 at half and 37-35 after regulation, but Miami – with a four-guard line-up – out-rebounded them 8-5 in the two overtimes (3-2 on the offensive glass).

The Terrapins have retrieved nearly 73% of available defensive rebounds in ACC wins this season compared to 65.5% in ACC losses. In Carolina’s three losses, it has struggled mostly on the offensive boards. UNLV held Carolina to 24% on the offensive glass; the lowest offensive rebounding percentage Carolina has posted in ACC play is 33%, to put it in perspective. The Tar Heels also had a season-low six second-chance points against UNLV. They’ve hit double digits in second-chance points in 12 straight games. Maryland’s opponents have scored 10 or more second-chance points in eight straight games.

Most important players: Terrell Stoglin, Maryland and Harrison Barnes, North Carolina. Barnes might be questionable against Maryland, but he’ll likely play with a sprained ankle. And it’s a good thing, too: Maryland likely doesn’t have anyone capable of guarding Barnes effectively. For most of the year, when Barnes’ shot isn’t falling, he’s been able to contribute in other areas or attack the basket more. At Florida State, he had just five rebounds and contributed in no other area except fouls (three) and turnovers (five). But at Wake, his shot wasn’t falling (he was 4-of-12) and he hurt himself during the game, but he finished with seven rebounds (his most since the Texas game), two assists, a steal and a block. In the road game before that at Virginia Tech, Barnes pretty much decided he would take the game over and he did, scoring 27 points. He’s capable of doing that on Saturday, even if he’s not 100%. But it’s worth noting that in last year’s meeting with Maryland, Barnes had 21 points but took 23 shots to do it (making nine). He was just 3-of-10 from three, didn’t attempt a foul shot and had four fouls.

Last year against the Tar Heels, Terrell Stoglin had 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting (0-of-3 from three) in 32 minutes. This year, the sophomore is averaging 18 attempts per game in ACC play and ten three-point attempts, scoring 23.3 points per contest. Maryland doesn’t really have any other significant scoring options – certainly none as good as Stoglin – but there are times when the team can become overly reliant on him. And against Miami in the double-overtime loss, Stoglin took a season-high 26 shots and TWENTY three-pointers (he made nine field goals and six three’s). But even his 30% shooting from beyond the arc was better than the rest of his teammates combined (2-of-8). Still, Carolina will need to contain Stoglin: he’s accounted for over 38% of Maryland’s points in the last two games. Stoglin is more than capable of going off on the Tar Heels but what Carolina really has to guard against is getting into foul trouble trying to contain him. And Stoglin will have to be smart about when he involves his teammates and avoid forcing the issue.

Random stat(s): According to the Carolina game notes, the Tar Heels have won at Wake Forest and Maryland in the same season two times in the last 20 seasons. Obviously, some of that is due to conference expansion (lack of a round robin) but it includes 14 years of pre-expansion round robin scheduling, meaning they got to play at each venue every year. Plus, one of the times they did it – 2005-06 – was post-expansion. The other time was in the 2000-01 season. …. Maryland’s ACC opponents have made 81.6% of their foul shots against them. No other team has had a higher percentage of free throws made against them.

Prediction: North Carolina 77, Maryland 72

 

Last week: 12-0

Season: 96-31 (32-12 ACC)

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