GREENSBORO — The tension rising throughout the second half, North Carolina never lost its lead – or its poise – in the ACC tournament semifinals at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Tar Heels held on to beat the Terrapins 79-76 and will play Miami on Sunday in the tournament championship game.
UNC led by as many as 13 points midway through the second half, but Maryland, which mounted comeback attempt after comeback attempt, whittled the Heels’ lead to a point with 3:12 to play. From there, UNC built its lead back up to five, only to see the Terps make it a two-point game with 19 seconds left.
After being fouled, P.J. Hairston, the UNC sophomore guard, made one of his two free throw attempts. Maryland called a timeout with 11 seconds left, and Logan Aronhalt missed long 3-pointer out of an in-bounds play.
The Heels secured the rebound and then ran out the clock.
Marcus Paige, the Heels’ point guard who made a key 3-pointer in UNC’s victory at Maryland earlier this month, again was clutch against the Terrapins. Paige made a jump shot after Maryland cut UNC’s lead to one with about three minutes to play, and Paige made another after the Terps cut UNC’s lead to three with 1:08 left.
That jumper that Paige made gave the Heels a five-point lead with 36 seconds left.
Paige finished with eight points. Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland led UNC with 15 points apiece.
Hairston finished with 13 points, as did James Michael McAdoo, the Heels’ sophomore forward. Hairston’s status had been in doubt entering Saturday after he suffered a deep laceration on his left hand during UNC’s victory against Florida State on Friday night.
He played through the injury, though, and tape and a bandage on his left hand.