No. 10 North Carolina 75, Maryland 64
North Carolina moved past a couple of frustrating losses Sunday night, thanks to some help from mistake-prone Maryland.
Chay Shegog scored 17 points, while Italee Lucas bounced back from a scoreless first half to help the 10th-ranked Tar Heels beat the Terrapins 75-64, snapping a two-game skid in which both losses came by double-digit margins.
Lucas finished with 12 points for the Tar Heels (14-3, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who took advantage of repeated turnovers by the Terrapins to take control in the final 7 1/2 minutes. It wasn't the prettiest of performances, with North Carolina seemingly unable to put together a clinching spurt despite stretches where it looked firmly in control.
Then again, toughing out a win against the young Terrapins (14-4, 2-2) was better than what the Tar Heels had done in their past two games: a 39-point nationally televised loss at top-ranked Connecticut followed by a 15-point loss at Virginia Tech on Thursday night.
``They're great kids and working hard and we're just going to keep getting better,'' North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell said. ``It was fun to win this game because we needed to get back on the winning track.''
The work apparently began shortly after the team returned from Blacksburg. Lucas compared the past two days to a ``24-hour practice,'' while Hatchell juggled her starting lineup for the 10th time this season.
Cetera DeGraffenreid, a three-year starter at point guard who had started 13 games this year, headed to the bench in favor of She'la White after shooting a combined 2-for-18 in the past two games. Hatchell also started freshman Krista Gross for the first time this year.
``I'm just trying to find the right ones that can get the job done,'' Hatchell said. ``We may have other starting lineups, I don't know.''
DeGraffenreid had eight points on 3-for-10 shooting, but she scored back-to-back lay-ups off turnovers to help the Tar Heels re-claim momentum after blowing most of a 12-point second-half lead.
Lucas - the team's top scorer at nearly 16 points per game - was 0-for-4 in the first half, prompting Hatchell to challenge her and DeGraffenreid to play better in the second half. Lucas responded, hitting a 3-pointer that essentially clinched the win after Maryland pulled to 65-60 with about 2 minutes left.
``The team does need me and (DeGraffenreid) to step up on offense,'' Lucas said. ``Our defense was there in the first half, but that's just not enough. I took Coach's challenge and just ran with it.''
Lori Bjork scored 18 points to lead the Terrapins, who committed 23 turnovers that led to 18 points, and also missed 12 of 25 free throws. The worst stretch included six straight turnovers in which the Terrapins didn't launch a shot for nearly 4 minutes in the second half.
``I'm really proud of how hard we played,'' Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. ``Obviously I feel 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, we've got to improve.''
The series has featured some memorable matchups in the past four years, from a meeting in the Final Four during Maryland's run to the 2006 national championship to a double-overtime victory for the Tar Heels in this building two seasons ago. But with Maryland coming in unranked, it marked the first time in nine meetings that both teams weren't ranked in the top 15.
North Carolina jumped to an early 11-point lead midway through the first half before seeing Maryland rally to a brief lead before the teams went into halftime at 33-all. Then, after the Tar Heels had pushed ahead by 12, Maryland answered with 10 straight points to close the gap to 54-52 with 8:35 left.
The Terps just couldn't complete the comeback, with DeGraffenreid ending the run with her two transition scores. A few minutes later, reserve Trinity Bursey knocked down a 3-pointer and assisted on a jumper from freshman Waltiea Rolle to push North Carolina's lead back up to 65-56 with 3:54 left.