- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

Maryland point guard John Gilchrist says not fearing to fail has helped the young Terrapins rediscover how to win.

“Anybody that’s good at anything can’t be afraid to mess up,” he said. “You’d rather make a mistake by going hard than playing timid. We let it loose [against Clemson on Sunday], and when you play hard your real talent really shows.”

Maryland (11-5, 2-3 ACC) visits No.19 Wake Forest (11-4, 2-3) tonight with both teams trying to remain among the ACC’s top teams. Maryland is 3-3 against ranked opponents but lost two straight before beating Clemson 65-52. Wake Forest has lost four straight after reaching No.5 earlier this year.

The Terps are still finding their top players. Forward Travis Garrison is pressing to regain his starting job over Ekene Ibekwe, while reserve guard Mike Jones and center Hassan Fofana are gaining more minutes to improve the overall depth. The nine underclassmen, along with senior center Jamar Smith, have been fearless at times while upsetting ranked opponents like No.1 Florida 69-68 on Dec. 10.

However, the inexperienced team can be befuddled at times. Its confidence seems to ebb and flow. Beating Clemson has Maryland ready to resume its quest for an 11th straight NCAA tournament bid.

“We really needed that game,” guard Chris McCray said. “When we tied the game at 43-43, we said we have to want this game more than Clemson.”

Said Gilchrist: “We’re just putting ourselves in the tournament with a good seed, and once we get in the tournament everybody will be ready to play their best basketball.”

Maryland showed its growing confidence by making 14 of 18 free throws against Clemson, including four straight by Garrison during the decisive run. The Terps’ foul shooting was ghastly earlier this year, but the team has steadily improved.

“People were scared to miss,” Gilchrist said. “You have to want to make it. That’s the mentality we have to take on. Sometimes with inexperience, you don’t know how to approach it and hide your emotion and hold back, but the only way you can go is all out.”

The Terps’ 25-3 second-half run against Clemson was certainly all out as three players carried the offense at times. Gilchrist continued to penetrate defenses while Garrison and Fofana helped the foul-plagued frontcourt maintain dominance underneath.

“We were able to change the tempo,” coach Gary Williams said. “That’s hard to do on somebody else’s home court.”

Wake Forest seeks to avoid its longest losing streak in five years after having its 24-game home winning streak end. The Deacons have led for only 10 minutes in the four combined losses.

“We need a breakthrough win,” coach Skip Prosser said. “There’s nothing cryptic about it. Our guys know what it takes to get it. Nobody on the floor, at our end, has grabbed the game by the throat when it was there for the taking.”

Still, Prosser believes the Demon Deacons can rebound over the season’s final five weeks.

“We’ve had two good months and two bad weeks,” he said. “You can’t languish in it.”


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