- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 16, 2003

A grudge match suddenly has gained a much bigger stage.
No. 16 Maryland (15-6, 7-3) has been looking to avenge an 81-72 loss to No.15 Wake Forest (17-3, 7-2) on Jan.15. A tussle broke out afterward with some pushing between players and Wake Forest's band rushing the court. A chair was upended and an official suspended for remarks to Maryland coach Gary Williams.
Maryland players fumed in the locker room afterward and haven't forgotten their first loss on an opposing floor. The Terrapins won their next five games while playing their best of the season.
Whether the usual 17,950 faithful can pack Comcast Center tonight amid an expected snowstorm is debatable, but a national audience will see the rematch for the ACC lead with six league games remaining.
"I didn't feel we gave Wake our best shot, and we still almost won," forward Nik Caner-Medley said. "Last time we didn't do all that much well. Didn't rebound well, run the offense well, and we still had a chance."
Maryland regained its swagger after beating Florida State 74-72 on Wednesday for its ACC-leading third conference road win. It was a crucial victory after losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech. Now the Terps can right themselves further despite a harsh schedule that continues Wednesday with a trip to Duke.
"We lost five of six before winning at Wake Forest [in 2001] and then didn't lose again the rest of year," Williams said. "It's just human instinct. We're playing and winning. All of a sudden you lose two, and everybody on your bandwagon wants to know what's wrong. You try to stay tough."
Maryland must beat Wake Forest to have a reasonable chance of earning the top seed in the ACC tournament. The Demon Deacons have a half-game lead with seven ACC games left and they have the tiebreaker over the Terps.
"We're aiming for the top spot we want that back," Maryland guard John Gilchrist said.
Wake Forest comes off a 94-80 double-overtime victory over nemesis Duke, breaking a 14-game losing streak against the Blue Devils. The Demon Deacons seek their first ACC title since 1997.
"Every win gives you a little more confidence," coach Skip Prosser said. "Not much was expected from our team, but our guys haven't bought into what other teams thought of them."
But can Wake Forest avoid a dropoff after such an emotional victory just three nights earlier?
"There's no [chance] of a letdown," Prosser said. "Maryland has guys you see on 'SportsCenter' three times a week. This is such a league of power games and power teams. You try to stay steady, but that's easier said than done."
Said Williams: "Wake is so fired up from that win that adrenalin will be flowing, but maybe they'll be tired out. You can argue both sides of that."
The game probably will be decided underneath between two of the ACC's better frontcourts. Wake Forest forward Josh Howard is an ACC Player of the Year candidate and the Demon Deacons' best player since Tim Duncan graduated in 1997. Howard's 23 points and eight rebounds were the difference in the first meeting when Wake Forest outrebounded Maryland 49-36.
Wake Forest is on track to become the first ACC team to lead the nation in rebounding margin (12.5). The Demon Deacons would join Michigan State (2001) as the only teams since 1981 with a plus-12 margin.
"Any time they do miss, they have four guys who are going in to get a piece of it," Maryland guard Drew Nicholas said.
Said Gilchrist: "They've turned offensive rebounding into an art."
Caner-Medley's return to the starting lineup against Florida State bolstered Maryland's frontcourt play, especially in offensive rebounding after he grabbed six against Georgia Tech on Feb.9. Caner-Medley was scoreless against Florida State, taking just four shots, but the freshman's energy helped through intangibles like snatching loose balls and second shots.
Center Ryan Randle and forward Tahj Holden combined for only 12 points and eight rebounds against Wake Forest, but forward Calvin McCall came off the bench for 10 points and four rebounds. Maryland has found mixed success underneath lately, but countering Howard defensively will be paramount.

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