- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 12, 2005

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Maryland again couldn’t handle one of the ACC’s heavyweights last night, but the Terrapins at least showed they might be able to remain competitive against lesser conference opponents.

No. 4 Wake Forest beat Maryland 81-66 at Lawrence Joel Coliseum. But unlike in a 109-75 thrashing at No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday, when Maryland lost contact midway through the first half and never recovered, the Terps didn’t fold after falling behind by 29 points early in the second half last night.

That strong late showing might give the Terps some confidence despite another double-digit margin.

“I saw some things in the second half that give us encouragement that we can get better,” coach Gary Williams said. “I think we can come back and be competitive in the league.”

Wake Forest (14-1, 3-0 ACC) won its ninth straight, while Maryland (9-4, 1-2) fell for the second time in four days to a top five team. Maryland won’t play Wake Forest again this season under the ACC’s new unbalanced schedule.

The Terps play Temple on Saturday in their final nonconference game.

“We’re struggling right now,” Williams said. “We just can’t let go. We’re holding back a little bit.”

Maryland’s plan to slow the pace lasted only a few minutes. Wake Forest’s 51-36 rebounding edge fueled the fast break, and the Demon Deacons’ talented backcourt started dominating midway through the first half. Justin Gray continued his bid for ACC player of the year with 25 points, while Chris Paul, possibly the country’s best point guard, had 14 points and six assists.

“They like to feed off each other,” said the Terps’ John Gilchrist, who did not start because he missed an academic assignment. “They complement each other.”

Guard D.J. Strawberry started over Gilchrist, who entered with 13:44 remaining in the first half but finished with only two points in nine minutes. He did not play in the second half.

The Terps’ offense was bedeviled once more by cold outside shooting and high-percentage shots rolling off the rim. One free throw by forward Nik Caner-Medley seemingly hung on the rim for several seconds before falling off. Maryland finished 1-for-14 on 3-pointers after converting only two of 22 against North Carolina. Caner-Medley led Maryland with 21 points.

“We’ve been working hard on getting the ball inside,” Caner-Medley said. “Sometimes you don’t know if you’re taking a good or bad shot.”

Both teams shot poorly in the opening four minutes, and Maryland’s only lead was 6-4. However, Wake Forest countered with three 3-pointers en route to a 15-8 edge.

Maryland had its defensive meltdown at nearly the same point as in its loss at North Carolina. The Demon Deacons raced to a 30-18 lead with 8:15 remaining in the first half with Paul and Gray combining for 12 straight points during a 16-4 run.

The Terps didn’t buckle this time, though. Maryland countered with inside baskets by Strawberry and Caner-Medley. Play underneath grew intense with Wake Forest forward Vytas Danelius throwing a vicious elbow at Maryland forward Ekene Ibekwe that went unpenalized.

It was only a temporary reprieve for Maryland, though. Wake Forest used three straight layups after three free throws to lead 39-23 with 3:41 left. Maryland went dry from the outside, and Wake Forest ran after getting the rebounds to take a 47-26 lead at halftime.

For the second straight game, Maryland missed any chance at a comeback by opening the second half poorly. Wake Forest scored the first eight points for a 55-26 lead.

Williams didn’t pull his starters as he did against the Tar Heels. Maryland followed with a 17-6 run - its best of the game - to close within 60-43 with 10:44 remaining.

Maryland got within 72-59 with 4:12 left, but the margin was just too much to overcome.

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