WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- The giant neon billboard outside the Lawrence Joel Memorial Coliseum promises that today's bill of fare here will feature mud and monsters from those giant-wheeled trucks.
For 40 minutes last night, Maryland and Wake Forest sloshed their way through some mud and played some monstrously bad basketball, with turnovers here, missed open shots and lots of bodies on the floor.
In the end, however, Maryland got out of the mire long enough to grit out a 77-66 upset, keeping alive their hopes of staying out of the Atlantic Coast Conference's first-ever elimination game before next week's tournament.
If the Terps can beat Virginia at home in their season finale tomorrow, and if North Carolina State loses at home to Wake Forest Saturday, Maryland would draw the seventh-seed in next week's tournament in Charlotte, N.C.
The Terps (13-13, 5-10 in the ACC) repeatedly held off Wake Forest challenges and made clutch free throws down the stretch to win their third game in a row and earn their second conference road victory of the season.
Walt Williams had 20 points, 16 coming in the second half, after he was forced to the bench late in the first half with three fouls.
"I didn't want to force anything," said Williams, who had a team-high eight rebounds. "In the second half, I told myself that I wasn't going to take any tough shots. If the shots was open, I'd take. If it wasn't, I'd find the open man."
"Walt, in the second half, just made his mind that he was going to score," coach Gary Williams said.
Evers Burns had a team-high 21 points, while Kevin McLinton had 16 points and six assists. Wake's Chris King led all scorers with 23 points.
The Demon Deacons (17-8, 7-8) who trailed through out most of the second half, pulled ahead 59-58 with 5:15 left on two free throws from King.
Maryland, however, avoiding a letdown from Sunday's 82-80 upset win over 10th-ranked North Carolina, responded with an 18-5 run to close the game and gain their first win in three tries in the Joel Coliseum, capped with free throws from McLinton, Burns and Vince Broadnax, who combined his usual superb defense with 14 points.
"We've done a better job of handling good things as the season has gone along," Williams said.
Here's how badly it went early for Wake Forest:
It took nearly seven minutes before someone other than Phil Medlin, the senior Deacon back-up center who earned a start because of his senior status, scored a point.
Medlin hit his first two shots in the first four minutes, but that was all the Wake offensive output, until Derrick McQueen hit a pull-up jumper with 13:06 left.
Maryland, however, was connecting, as all five starters scored in the first 6:37, and the Terps had a 10-4 lead.
Early on, Maryland did a fine job on defense, cutting off passing lanes and keeping lots of bodies around Rogers, last season's conference rookie of the year.
And Rogers did himself few favors, picking up two quick fouls in four seconds, clubbing Kevin McLinton in the act of shooting, then bowling over Chris Kerwin for an offensive foul.
The Terps continued to play well, connecting in the paint, on shots from McLinton, Broadnax and John Walsh to lead 20-10 with 9:02 left, forcing Wake Forest into a timeout.
Off the timeout, however, the Deacons and Rogers quickly righted themselves.
The 6-7 native of Durham, N.C. electrified the crowd with two monstrous dunks off steals, one with his left, or off hand, then another three minutes later, going behind his head on a reverse dunk to pull Wake to within four points, at 20-16.
Meanwhile, the Terps, who had gone nearly 12 minutes without a foul, picked them up in quick bunches, drawing four fouls in three minutes.
Williams, who leads the team in personal fouls and disqualifications, picked up three fouls in that span, and was forced to sit out the last four minutes of the half with three fouls and four points.
Meanwhile, the Deacons continued to charge back, as Chris King picked up the slack from Rogers, getting six of his eight first-half points in the last 3 minutes.
King's free-throws with 3:17 left gave the Deacons their first lead at 24-23, and Wake took a 30-29 lead into the dressing room at halftime.
MARYLAND -- Broadnax 3-5 8-10 14, Burns 8-18 5-9 21, Kerwin 1-4 0-1 2, Williams 9-18 0-0 20, McLinton 5-9 6-7 16, Downing 0-0 0-0 0, Walsh 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 28-56 19-27 77.
WAKE FOREST -- Forester 0-0 0-0 0, C. King 7-13 9-10 23, Medlin 2-2 1-1 5, Tucker 4-12 0-0 8, McQueen 2-10 1-2 6, Rogers 7-14 2-2 16, Hicks 0-1 0-0 0, Doggett 0-2 0-0 0, Rasmussen 0-0 0-0 0, Owens 4-10 0-2 8. Totals 26-64 13-17 66.
Halftime--Wake Forest 30, Maryland 29. 3-Point goals--Maryland 2-7 (Williams 2-6, McLinton 0-1), Wake Forest 1-10 (C. King 0-1, McQueen 1-6, Rogers 0-3). Fouled out--C. King, McQueen. Rebounds--Maryland 34 (Williams 8), Wake Forest 36 (Rogers 8). Assists--Maryland 14 (McLinton 6), Wake Forest 18 (McQueen 8). Total fouls--Maryland 14, Wake Forest 22. A--11,295.