COLLEGE PARK, MD. — With its two senior stars combining for 45 points, finding hot hands in the first and second halves, the Maryland women's basketball team compounded an already miserable week for No. 2 North Carolina on Sunday night.
Behind the sharpshooting of Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman, who shot a combined 7-of-11 from 3-point range, the No. 12 Terrapins doled out a 77-71 defeat before 12,671 delirious, hand-clapping fans at the Comcast Center.
The Heels (17-3, 3-2 ACC) dropped their third consecutive game after losing to No. 1 Connecticut on Monday and Georgia Tech on Thursday.
It was the first time the Heels had lost three straight since the 2001-02 season when it fell to Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Duke in one long January stretch.
"We've had a tough week," UNC coach Sylvia Hatchell said. "We haven't been as successful as we've wanted to be, but what didn't kill you makes you better. This definitely hasn't killed us, and it will make us stronger."
If UConn flat outplayed the Heels and Georgia Tech outmuscled them, they will look back at Sunday's game as the one that got away. After a slow start, they rallied in the first half and walked into the halftime break tied 34-34.
The Heels took the lead early in the second half, but were unable to contain Maryland's Toliver, who scored 18 of her game-high 23 points in the second half, launching 3-pointers and creeping inside for layups.
Coleman scored 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Teammate Demauria Liles added 12 points and 15 rebounds, helping the Terps hold a 51-38 rebounding edge for the game.
UNC junior forward Jessica Breland led her team with an 18-point, 12-rebound performance before she went down with a sprained left ankle and left the game at the 1:45 mark in the second half. After the game she wore a medical boot, though she walked out of the arena.
Breland's loss came after senior forward Rashanda McCants fouled out with 4:33 remaining.
After McCants left the game, Hatchell spoke to the referees and eventually the UNC bench received at technical.
"I've been in coaching 34 years. I don't know if I've ever been in a game like tonight," Hatchell said. "It takes a lot for me to get a technical, but I felt like it was something I had to do."
The loss had UNC players shaking their heads after the game, frustrated by a week that wouldn't let up, even when they played well enough to win.
"We can't keep our heads down," UNC sophomore Italee Lucas said. "We just have to keep moving forward. It's like we're hitting a brick wall right now and we just need to bounce back. ... Get up, get everything reorganized and move forward from this week."