North Carolina is confident it can outscore just about any opponent. The Tar Heels, however, know that’s not entirely enough to remain a serious national championship contender.
Third-ranked North Carolina hopes to improve defensively as it looks for an 11th straight victory while trying to avoid another road loss to Maryland on Saturday.
North Carolina (24-2, 10-2) is second in the nation averaging 91.7 points per contest, but allows 71.9 to rank 11th out of 12 teams in the ACC.
The Tar Heels avoided a third straight loss to Maryland (16-9, 5-6) with a 108-91 win at home on Feb. 3. Despite topping the 100-point mark for the seventh time this season, North Carolina allowed the Terps to surpass their season average by 19.2 points.
On Wednesday, North Carolina won 89-80 over lowly North Carolina State. The Wolfpack shot 64 percent after halftime and 54 percent for the game - the most by any Tar Heels’ opponent this season.
“Teams are just as gifted offensively and can score right with us, we’re not going to win those games,” North Carolina guard Wayne Ellington said. “We’ve got to get teams’ percentages down.”
His team’s latest effort was another reason for Tar Heels coach Roy Williams to be concerned as March approaches and the challenges get tougher.
“I guess we just have to stop talking about it and do it and prove ourselves,” All-American Tyler Hansbrough said. “And then we’ll probably have to talk about how our defense is improved.”
Though the Tar Heels have won two of the last three contests against Maryland at College Park, they lost 89-87 on Feb. 25, 2007 in their most recent visit. The Terps are averaging 86.1 points in their last 11 home games against North Carolina.
Maryland coach Gary Williams still knows his squad must be at its best in order to pull off the upset this time.
“There’s no easy way to play against a good team,” he said. “They’re the third-ranked team in the country, and obviously very good.”
Hansbrough scored 27 points, Danny Green added 19 and Ty Lawson 17 with nine assists as the Tar Heels shot 54.1 percent against North Carolina State.
While Hansbrough is averaging a team-leading 21.4 points, Lawson has averaged 21.0 on 22-of-32 shooting in his last three contests for North Carolina, which looks to win 11 straight ACC games for the first time since 2000-01.
Ellington scored a season-high 34 points, Hansbrough had 24 and Lawson added 21 in the Tar Heels win over the Terps earlier this month.
While North Carolina is gearing up for the postseason, Maryland needs help to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years.
The Terps still have home games against No. 9 Duke and No. 8 Wake Forest remaining.
“We’re a good basketball team. We’ve got some big games coming up,” Gary Williams said.
Maryland dropped to 1-5 against ranked opponents with a 93-64 loss at No. 13 Clemson on Tuesday. Landon Milbourne scored 13 points and Greivis Vasquez added 12 for the Terps, who allowed 59 second-half points.
Vasquez (16.0 ppg) and Milbourne (13.0) were held to a combined 22 points at North Carolina earlier this month.