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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels Must Focus on Maryland

The ACC is nasty.

There's no way around it. With five teams ranked in the country's top 15, it is the premier conference in college basketball.

Happy after a big win? Get over it. Another national championship contender awaits.

Such is the situation facing North Carolina, which takes on Maryland tonight at 7 in Cole Field House. The Tar Heels knocked off then-No. 4 Wake Forest on Saturday 70-69 in an emotional contest.

"We're coming off a nice win against a great team in Wake Forest, and I think the key for us right now is to forget that win," UNC coach Matt Doherty said. "You play so many games and they happen so quickly that if you enjoy a win too much or think that you've done something, you're going to get smacked the next time you step on the floor."

North Carolina has every reason to give the 14th-ranked Terrapins its full attention. The Tar Heels haven't won in Cole Field House since the 1996-97 season, and no one on UNC's squad has ever played a part in a road victory at Maryland.

"They're tough," UNC center Brendan Haywood said. "I haven't won there in three years. We had Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Shammond Williams, and we still lost there.

"It's a tough place to play. They're feeling very confident, and we have to bring our 'A' game."

Terps Love to Run

In addition to their 'A' game, the Tar Heels might also need to bring their running shoes.

The Terrapins average 93.1 points per game (third in the NCAA) behind the strength of their full-court pressure defense. Maryland forces 20 turnovers per game and converts many of those opportunities into fast-break layups.

"They've got long, athletic players who are very quick," Doherty said. "Turnovers are a big concern of mine."

Sophomore point guard Ronald Curry will be the man under fire as the Tar Heels attempt to break the press. Curry has helped stabilize UNC's backcourt with his defense and toughness, but his assist-to-turnover ratio is on the low side at 1.3 to 1.

Forte Heads Home

Sophomore guard Joseph Forte, from Greenbelt, Md., will get a home game away from home tonight.

Cole Field House is just minutes away from DeMatha High School, where Forte honed his skills under the legendary Morgan Wooten.

"It's definitely a homecoming," Forte said. "It's a mile away from where I used to live and a mile away from where I used to go to high school. I'm going up there with the intent to do my best."

Forte scored 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting on his trip to College Park last season. He will be matched up much of the night with Juan Dixon, a first-team All-ACC performer last season.

Tap-ins

UNC senior forward Jim Everett, who joined the team as a walk-on last season, was awarded a scholarship last week for the spring semester ... Maryland is 47-4 at Cole Field House during the last four seasons. The Terps have won 13 in a row at home ... Doherty faced Maryland last year while he was the head coach at Notre Dame. His Fighting Irish lost 72-67 in the preseason NIT consolation game.

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The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.