Terps need to stop the hotshots

January 15, 1994|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- After stopping Florida State and Bobby Sura on Tuesday night at home, the University of Maryland basketball team will have a decidedly more difficult task when it plays Wake Forest today in a 4 p.m. Atlantic Coast Conference game here at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.

In a building where they have won once since it opened five seasons ago, the Terrapins will have to cool the suddenly hot Demon Deacons and their star guard, Randolph Childress.

Considering what happened Thursday in Durham, it won't be easy.

"I expect them to come out flying after beating the No. 2 team [Duke] in the country," Maryland coach Gary Williams said yesterday.

"They'll probably be tired, but they're going to have a lot of adrenalin, too, after a win like that on the road."

Childress, unlike Sura, is streaking, not struggling. The 6-foot-2, 187-pound senior from Oxon Hill, Md., has helped Wake Forest (11-3, 2-0 in the ACC) get off to its best start in the ACC since 1982-83. After scoring 36 against Florida State a week ago in Tallahassee, Childress had 24 against the Blue Devils. It was Childress' three-pointer in the closing seconds that helped beat Duke, 69-68.

"I think he could be the best guard in the country right now," Williams said of Childress, the ACC's leading scorer at just less than 23 points a game.

Childress, a redshirt junior, is showing no effects of the reconstructive knee surgery he underwent between his freshman and sophomore years.

During a pickup game in the spring of 1991, Childress tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, often the ruination of a promising basketball career.

But after averaging 14 points as a freshman off the bench for the Demon Deacons, and then averaging 19.7 last year as a sophomore, Childress has become a force this season.

At least for now, he has more than made up for the loss of 1992-93 ACC Player of the Year, forward Rodney Rogers, who left for the NBA after his junior season.

"I knew I was capable of coming back, but after listening to people say that you're never the same after that kind of injury, it was scary," Childress said earlier this week. "I was determined to come back and be the player I was before. The coaches told me when Rodney left that I was going to have to step up my game even more."

Maryland sophomore Johnny Rhodes, who as a senior at Dunbar High School in Washington played against Childress, said: "With the kind of team we have, I know that if he gets past me I have a lot of help. Childress is a better shooter than Sura [who was four of 12 against the Terps]."

But stopping Childress is not the only worry for Maryland (9-3, 2-1 ACC).

Despite his team's 80-74 victory over the Seminoles, Williams came away concerned about the Terps' lack of emotion and a first-half drought, when they went more than six minutes without a basket and Florida State got back in the game.

"Without winning that game against Florida State, it would have had a negative effect on our team," Williams said.

"After the first two games [against Georgia Tech and North Carolina], we were drained mentally and physically tired. It's not that we didn't respect Florida State, but we just couldn't get it up emotionally in the first half."

As for the offense, Williams said, "We had to grind it out in the second half, and the fact that we were able was very positive."

Wake Forest's biggest worry has become a familiar one around the ACC: what to do with Maryland's Joe Smith. The 6-10 center, second behind Childress in scoring, is coming off a 23-point, 20-rebound, six-block performance against Florida State.

"I'm not surprised he's such an outstanding player, because we were so closely involved in recruiting him," Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said yesterday.

"But I'd be less than honest to say that I'm not surprised at just how outstanding he is. I don't think I've ever seen a freshman in this league make the impact he has this early."

Interestingly, Childress and Smith might have wound up playing at the other's school.

As a senior at Flint Hill, Childress was headed to College Park until the Terrapins were placed on NCAA probation. And Smith's mother, Leetha, wanted her son to go to Wake Forest because she favored a smaller school.

Today, in a game featuring the league's two biggest scorers, neither team will have it easy.

But in a building where they've won once in five years and against a team coming off its biggest win this season, things may be tougher for the Terps than for the Demon Deacons.

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