CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Marcus Paige scored 20 points in his season debut following a hand injury to help No. 9 North Carolina beat No. 2 Maryland 89-81 on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Brice Johnson added 16 points for the Tar Heels (6-1), who shot 53 percent and repeatedly capitalized on Terrapins miscues.
Melo Trimble had 23 points and 12 assists to lead Maryland (6-1), which shot 51 percent but committed 22 turnovers that UNC converted into 21 points.
This was the headlining matchup for the interconference series, pitting two Atlantic Coast Conference charter members with Final Four aspirations. Paige and Trimble basically took this one over for much of the second half, putting on a show of high-level guard play.
Eventually, Paige and the Tar Heels — the preseason No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 before sliding with a loss at Northern Iowa — put together enough stops and key baskets to slowly stretch out the lead and wrestle away control in the final 7 minutes.
Maryland missed eight of its last 10 shots as North Carolina slowly increased a 74-72 lead back to double figures after blowing a 13-point first-half lead.