The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 7th

Capel Redefines Role to Spark UNC

Junior forward Jason Capel scored \a career-high 27 points and added eight rebounds to lead top-ranked North Carolina past No. 13 Maryland.

Capel doesn't take well to a label that has been placed on him since he arrived at North Carolina, though.

That of a role player.

Capel did everything in his power to rip that tag off Saturday, scoring a career-high 27 points in No. 1 UNC's 96-82 win against 13th-ranked Maryland at the Smith Center.

"I guess I do it all," Capel said. "I don't consider myself a role player ... I'm a player."

That point was hard to argue with considering what he had accomplished in his 35 minutes of play. Capel eclipsed a career-high of 23 points he set against Nevada Las-Vegas even though he didn't attempt a shot until 7:11 remained in the first half.

Capel also grabbed eight rebounds -- all defensive -- and didn't commit a turnover.

To call Capel a role player would imply he possesses at least marginal skill in many areas. Lately, Capel has been excelling at all facets, including those that don't necessarily show up on paper -- such as shot selection and leadership.

"He's not the guy that gets a lot of the credit," UNC center Brendan Haywood said. "I'm sure he will today because he had a great game. Cape is one of those guys, you can't base him off his stats."

Let's go ahead and give it a shot anyway.

Capel's 27 points came on just 14 attempts from the field. He hit 10 of those tries, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc. Capel also hit all three of his free throw tries.

Capel is scoring 12.9 points per ACC contest and leads UNC starters by averaging 1.54 points per field-goal attempt in league play.

Capel's efficiency matched that of the entire North Carolina team. The Tar Heels (21-2, 11-0 in the ACC) shot a season-high 58.3 percent from the floor. They shot a season-high 70 percent from behind the 3-point line. And they shot a season-high 95 percent from the line.

"Sometimes we kind of force things up," said Haywood, who hit 4-of-7 shots and scored nine points. "We played as a unit, we picked our spots."

The Tar Heels played like a unit, all right. Kris Lang, who has been bothered by pain in his right ankle, decided during pre-game warmups that Julius Peppers should start in his place. Peppers responded by scoring a career-high 18 points against the Terps (15-8, 6-5).

Point guard Adam Boone, much like he did a week earlier against Georgia Tech, hit a leaner with one-second left on the shot clock to put the Tar Heels ahead by 11 points with 10:11 to play in the second half.

Max Owens, who had hit one 3-pointer in seven tries during the last four games, hit all three of his attempts against Maryland and scored nine points in 11 minutes. He hit a pair within 24 seconds to put UNC ahead 75-60 with 7:41 left in the game.

Maryland coach Gary Williams said this UNC squad has more viable backups than last year's team, which entered the NCAA Tournament with an 18-13 record.

"I think last year they didn't have this type of bench, and you could catch them when they were tired out there," Williams said. "That might be the biggest difference."

The usual suspects did their damage. Joseph Forte scored 23 points, his seventh consecutive game with 20 or more. Eight of those points came in the final three minutes, when UNC was protecting a double-digit lead.

Point guard Ronald Curry set a career-high with eight assists and again handled Maryland's pressure with poise, particularly in the second half.

The Terrapins forced nine Tar Heel turnovers in the first half and went to the break trailing 43-42. But the Tar Heels committed only three turnovers in the final 20 minutes.

UNC went the first 11:55 of the second half without a turnover. The Tar Heels routinely broke Maryland's full-court pressure and found good shots awaiting them on their end of the court.

Capel often set up at the foul line, where he received outlet passes from his UNC teammates, turned with an open look at the basket and connected.

Capel put his most emphatic mark on the game with about 11 minutes left in the second half. He received a pass from Boone and swooped in from the right wing for a two-handed dunk.

Capel hung on the rim for a few moments, both hands still clenching the iron as he looked at three Terrapins standing below.

Finally, Capel was generating all the attention.

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

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