Maryland 89, No. 5 North Carolina 87

Monday, February 26th 2007, 6:53 am
By: News On 6

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) _ Teams with aspirations of winning a national championship can't afford to wilt in the final minutes of a close game.

Unless No. 5 North Carolina can correct that unsightly habit, the Tar Heels probably won't get far in the NCAA tournament.

D.J. Strawberry scored a career-high 27 points, Mike Jones had 18, and Maryland rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half Sunday to beat the Tar Heels 89-87 and extend its winning streak to five games.

North Carolina (24-5, 10-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) blew a 13-point lead, then built the margin back to 12 with just over 7 minutes left before fading.

``This is very frustrating,'' North Carolina center Tyler Hansbrough said. ``We can't crumble whenever the game gets tight. We have to be tough.''

In Sunday's other Top 25 games, it was: No. 2 Ohio State 49, No. 1 Wisconsin, 48; No. 7 Memphis 77, Houston 64; No. 17 Vanderbilt 67, Kentucky 65; No. 18 Duke 67, St. John's 50 and No. 20 Louisville 76, Connecticut 69.

The Tar Heels' five losses this season are by a combined 21 points. In this one, North Carolina led for the first 37 minutes before Maryland took over.

``We lacked focus. We didn't convert the way we should down the stretch,'' forward Reyshawn Terry said. ``We had another breakdown. We keep hitting the same wall. It's making me a little nervous, honestly.''

North Carolina had a chance to force overtime with 3.5 seconds left, but Brandan Wright missed the first of two free throws and the Tar Heels failed to control the rebound of his second misfire.

As the final buzzer sounded, fans rushed the court to celebrate the Terrapins' first win over North Carolina in six tries since Jan. 14, 2004.

``We have a pretty good belief in ourselves this year,'' Maryland coach Gary Williams said. ``The seniors knew the game wasn't over and they knew we had time to come back. The big thing was to stop them from scoring.''

James Gist had 12 points for Maryland (22-7, 8-6). Before their five-game run, the Terrapins were 3-6 in the ACC and in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for a third straight season.

Now, after being all but written off three weeks ago, Maryland can count on a return trip.

``You get criticized around here when you lose,'' Williams said. ``That's part of the deal, I guess, when you've won a national championship (in 2002).''

``They've got themselves right back in it,'' North Carolina coach Roy Williams said.

Maryland trailed 77-65 with 7:14 left before Jones scored nine points in a 16-3 run to give the Terrapins their first lead.

``That's what a team is,'' Terps center Ekene Ibekwe said. ``We kept on fighting when we were down.''

No. 2 Ohio State 49, No. 2 Wisconsin 48

At Columbus, Ohio, Mike Conley Jr. drove the lane and made a runner with 4 seconds left to give the Buckeyes a victory over the Badgers, clinching the Buckeyes' second consecutive Big Ten title.

With the victory, the Buckeyes (26-3, 14-1) are likely to climb to the top spot in The Associated Press rankings for the first time since Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and a sub named Bob Knight were ranked No. 1 throughout the 1962 season.

No. 7 Memphis 77, Houston 64

At Memphis, Tenn., Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 19 points and the Tigers extended the nation's longest winning streak to 17.

Joey Dorsey added 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers (25-3, 14-0 Conference USA), who also won their 29th consecutive home game.

No. 17 Vanderbilt 67, Kentucky 65

At Nashville, Tenn., Derrick Byars grabbed a rebound off his own missed foul shot and scored to give the Commodores their first lead with 25.5 seconds left, and Vanderbilt held on for the win.

No. 18 Duke 67, St. John's 50

At New York, Greg Paulus scored 19 points, DeMarcus Nelson added 14 points and seven rebounds and the Blue Devils won their fourth straight.

Jon Scheyer had 11 points and David McClure grabbed seven rebounds and Duke (22-7, 8-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) continued to rebound from a four-game losing streak that knocked them out of the Top 25 for a time.

No. 20 Louisville 76, Connecticut 69

At Hartford, Conn., Terrence Williams scored 17 points, freshman Derrick Caracter came off the bench to score 16 and the Cardinals won their fifth straight game.

Jerome Dyson hit 6-of-8 from 3-point range and scored 23 points to lead Connecticut.