WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- After wowing them in New York with a title in last week's ECAC Holiday Festival, the reality of Atlantic Coast Conference play set in last night for the Maryland Terrapins.
The opening of the ACC grind began in sloppy fashion, as Wake Forest outlasted the Terrapins, 74-62, before 9,417 at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
After shooting a respectable 49 percent in beating No. 12 South Carolina in New York, the Terps (6-4) shot 33.3 percent -- 26.5 percent in the second half -- against the Demon Deacons (6-2, 1-0 in the ACC). In one stretch late in the game, Maryland went more than nine minutes without scoring a field goal out of its set offense.
"We shot [nearly] 50 percent in New York, but Wake threw some good defense on us," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We had shots that should have gone down. We just have to shoot better on the road."
Walt Williams was the object of the Demon Deacons' defensive pressure. After scoring a total of 56 points in two games last week, Williams was held to 16 last night. The 6-foot-8 point guard went one stretch of 12 minutes, 22 seconds in the second half without scoring, until hitting a three-pointer from the top of the key with 56 seconds left in the game.
"I give Chris King a lot of credit," Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said of one of many players who had a hand in guarding Williams. "His not scoring for that long just shows you what kind of job Chris was doing on him. But I felt the best thing to do was to rotate players on Williams to try to keep somebody fresh on him. He's an excellent player."
When Williams hit the three-pointer with less than a minute left, it pulled Maryland -- which had trailed by 11 with 1:59 left -- to within 66-60. But Wake Forest, whose sloppily run spread offense resulted in turnovers on four straight possessions in the final minutes, got two free throws apiece from guards Robert Siler (16 points) and Randolph Childress (13 points) for a 70-60 advantage.
Maryland guard Kevin McLinton pulled the Terps within 70-62 with 32 seconds left, but Siler and Childress again made two free throws apiece in the final 30 seconds to finish the scoring.
"I thought we had a shot in the second half, but we couldn't sustain our half-court offense," Gary Williams said. "We got several steals down the stretch, but we just couldn't convert, and that hurt us. I thought that was the key to the game."
Perhaps even a bigger key was the play of the Wake Forest front line -- freshman center Rodney Rogers scored a game-high 20 and had 11 rebounds -- that saddled Maryland with foul trouble early in the game. Maryland center Cedric Lewis (12 points, seven rebounds), picked up his fourth foul 57 seconds into the second half and played 23 minutes for the game. Forward Garfield Smith had his fourth with eight minutes left and eventually fouled out.
"[Cedric] played 39 minutes for us in both games in New York, so his foul trouble tonight obviously hurt," Williams said. "I feel he's the anchor to our half-court offense."
Lewis and Smith hit two baskets apiece in the game's opening minutes, giving Maryland an 8-4 lead. But the Demon Deacons intensified their defense and scored eight straight points to take a 12-8 lead just under four minutes into the game.
That Wake Forest lead was as much as 24-16 with 7:48 left in the half, when the Terrapins scored eight straight to tie the score with 5:16 left. But, with Lewis sitting out the final four minutes of the half after picking up his third foul, Wake was able to take a 35-32 lead into halftime.
Maryland took a lead, 38-37, early in the second half after a dunk by Evers Burns. But that was the last Maryland lead.
"The second half we got a little passive on offense, even though our defense was tough," said Burns (14 points). "We just need to concentrate more on offense. If we do, we're going to win some games in the ACC."
That sentiment echoed by Williams, who did not appear overly discouraged afterward.
"We can play. I liked our intensity, but Wake just caused foul trouble for us with their size," Williams said. "We were picked not to win any games in our conference, and we haven't yet. But we have to believe in ourselves."