Terps must come down from high to avoid finishing up on a low

March 05, 1992|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- They have had four days to recover from Sunday's nationally televised upset of North Carolina. They will have less than two days to prepare for Saturday's regular-season finale at home against Virginia.

Somewhere in between those two emotional settings, the Maryland Terrapins will have to get ready for tonight's 9 o'clock Atlantic Coast Conference game against Wake Forest at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"What I worry about as a coach is that we don't look at the North Carolina game as a tap-off to the season," Maryland coach Gary Williams said earlier this week. "We'd like to use it as a motivation for Wake Forest and Virginia. We'll see."

Both the game against the Demon Deacons and the one against the Cavaliers are important for the Terps, who at 4-10 are tied with Clemson for last place in the ACC, one-half game behind North Carolina State (5-10).

Should Maryland (12-13) win its last two regular-season games -- and considering its 82-80 victory over the then-10th-ranked Tar Heels, anything seems possible -- its chances of escaping the play-in game to the ACC tournament will be greatly enhanced.

"We want to finish strong," said junior point guard Kevin McLinton, whose leadership has inspired Maryland's late-season surge. "I think getting the Carolina game really helped our confidence. We know that Wake Forest has a good team, and it's not going to be easy, especially down there."

Beating the Demon Deacons on their home court will be difficult. It is where Wake Forest handed top-ranked Duke its second loss of the season two weeks ago. It is where the Deacons have won eight straight, and 13 of 15 overall this season.

"It hasn't been [tough] in the past, but it's becoming a tougher place to play," said Gary Williams. "It's tougher because of the players, because of guys like [Rodney] Rogers, [Derrick] McQueen and [Chris] King. That's what makes it tough."

Wake Forest (17-8, 7-7) is hoping to get an NCAA tournament bid, but Maryland can't plan beyond next week's ACC tournament while serving the final year of its NCAA probation. The Terps still have a chance to finish tied with, or ahead of, the Wolfpack, who lost at Virginia on Tuesday night and close the regular season Saturday at home against the Demon Deacons.

"It's something our players obviously know," Williams said Tuesday. "I don't think I mentioned it more than once. But we can control our destiny. You try to go out and win both games."

Maryland had Wake Forest on the ropes in their first meeting. But after the Terps took a 14-point lead early in the second half, Walt Williams got into foul trouble. After Williams fouled out with 31 points -- he has fouled out a team-high six times this year -- the Terps fell apart and lost, 86-76.

"We seem to have an awful lot of trouble with Walt Williams," Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said of the 6-foot-8 senior, the ACC's leading scorer.

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