ACC Tournament: UNC holds off Maryland
GREENSBORO — North Carolina’s ACC semifinal win against Maryland Saturday needing to be reassured. They needed a hand and P.J. Hairston gave them one.
The one with stitches.
The Tar Heels fought off injury concerns and a strong-willed Terrapin team fighting for its NCAA Tournament lives in a 79-76 victory. They moved on to today’s championship and sighed in relief as Hairston, their third-leading scorer, looked every bit the part.
Hairston, who needed eight stitches in his left hand to secure a wound he suffered against Florida State, entered the day a game-time decision. Surviving through the ordeal was hard enough, much less playing a career-high 36 minutes.
“Last night I thought I was going to die,” Hairston joked. “I was in the training room with my mom holding my hand. As soon as the alcohol and the soap hit my hand I kind of screamed for my life.”
The sophomore’s hand wasn’t stitched up enough to catch a fastball from Randy Johnson but he scored 13 points and hit a pair of first-half 3-pointers.
“He was one tough sucker today,” said UNC coach Roy Williams of Hairston. “He was 3 for 10 but he had some good looks. At the same time I think what he helped us do was extremely important.”
Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland scored 15 points each and James Michael McAdoo added 13 for UNC (24-9).
“We think we played exceptionally well in the second half,” Williams said. “I thought the thing that killed us in the first half and in the second was points off offensive rebounds.”
UNC led by 12 on four occasions in the second half but was unable to put it away the Terps until the final buzzer.
Maryland (22-12) got a chance to tie the game in the final 10 seconds with possession of the ball and a timeout. Logan Aronhalt came around a screen from Alex Len and got an open look but the 3-point try failed to draw rim.
“It’s tough to get an open three late in the game and we actually got one,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. “The execution was good and that’s all we ask for as a coach. Logan is a pretty good shooter and he was 48 percent from three a couple weeks ago.”
The Terps fell to UNC for the third time this season. The Heels are 0-2 this year against Miami, today’s opponent in the conference title game. UNC’s last conference title came in 2008. An ACC crown would be fulfilling to a team that started 0-2 in the league, which seemed like ages ago.
“Everyone had their doubts,” Hairston said. “Once we started clicking together and playing North Carolina basketball, that’s when everything came together. We started playing with a different intensity and a sense of urgency.”
Maryland left points on the floor as it missed a slew of layups and close shots. Freshman Dez Wells had 15 points after a 30-point effort against Duke but was held scoreless for the first 15 minutes. Having spent a large chunk of effort and emotion upsetting Duke Friday, Maryland looked lackadaisical in the first half.
“We missed a ton of layups and some balls bounced out of our hands and led to layups and things,” Turgeon said.
Twenty-four second-chance points helped Maryland. Len led the Terps with 20 points. Nick Faust scored 17.
UNC led 37-32 at halftime and went up double digits on consecutive shots by Strickland. The Heels had a 68-58 advantage with under eight minutes to play when Maryland started a 12-3 run to cut it to 71-70.
Freshman Marcus Paige hit a floater from the baseline with the shot clock running down with 36 seconds left to give UNC a 77-72 lead. Hairston missed the second of two free throws with 16 seconds left to give Maryland its final chance down three points.