COLLEGE PARK, Md. — There are numerous explanations for the North Carolina basketball team's struggles over the past five weeks.
Sunday, however, the Tar Heels offered no defense for their latest loss.
Maryland shredded North Carolina 92-71 at Comcast Center, thriving in transition while shooting 51.5 percent and sending the Tar Heels to their seventh loss in nine games.
"It's about as disappointing as it gets," senior guard Marcus Ginyard said in a morose locker room. "About as disappointing as it looks."
The beating was North Carolina's worst since a 96-56 loss on the same court against Maryland in 2003, and the largest margin of defeat for a Roy Williams-coached team since Kansas' 84-53 loss at Wake Forest on Dec. 7, 2000.
More importantly, the Tar Heels (13-10, 2-6 ACC) are facing an increasingly dire situation, buried in the conference standings with No. 10 Duke scheduled to visit Chapel Hill on Wednesday.
"In 21 years as a head coach," Williams said, "I've never been in this spot. Some way, somehow, I've got to help the kids get out of it. [Being] 2-6 is not comfortable. It's just not good."
Against the Terrapins (16-6, 6-2), the latest loss seemed inevitable from the opening tip.
Maryland had Greivis Vasquez, who dissected North Carolina for a triple-double last season and rolled up an efficient 26 points, 11 assists and five rebounds Sunday. It also had a raucous environment, with all students invited into the arena after two feet of snow during a weekend storm forced most season-ticket holders to watch the game from home on TV.
And it paid some attention on defense, something the Tar Heels blithely ignored for most of the game.
It was the Terps who held a 22-6 edge in transition baskets, the Terps who shot 12-for-23 beyond the 3-point line.
Maryland, in some ways, played just as North Carolina typically does. Only it flourished far more than the Tar Heels, who never gave their inconsistent offense a chance because of shortcomings at the other end.
"We weren't doing a good job of getting back," said Ginyard, who matched a season high with 17 points. "We had all five guys looking at the ball, and it just wasn't a priority for us to get back on defense. That's the way we played out there. It wasn't a big deal for anybody to scramble back on defense tonight, and it killed us."
Maryland built a 16-point lead in the first half, only to have North Carolina close to four down. But the Terps pulled away to lead 44-34 at halftime. The Tar Heels eventually inched to 54-51, and suddenly there was the potential for a comeback win.
The Terps' senior-laden backcourt ended those chances. Eric Hayes (16 points) made a 3-pointer off a Vasquez feed, and Vasquez soon followed with a fast-break layup and a pull-up 3-pointer in transition to make it 68-54.
It never got better, an "N-I-T" chant preceding the entrance of Maryland's walk-ons and the realization the Tar Heels' latest post-championship season is imperiled at the midpoint of league play.
"When you're 2-6 in the league, yeah," said UNC forward Deon Thompson (16 points). "We can't just sit around and mope around. We've got Duke on Wednesday. We'll go back to Chapel Hill and prepare for that and come out and fight again."
The looming showdown will only heighten the concern that North Carolina could miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Williams' seven seasons at the school.
"To say we're struggling would be the understatement of my entire life," Williams said. "But it makes no difference. No one's going to feel sorry for us, and they shouldn't."
Especially after a day the Tar Heels did little to defend themselves.