Revived Terps wary of Wake With Duncan gone, Woods suspended, Deacons seek spark

January 17, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Name that team.

This Atlantic Coast Conference program has become a fixture in the NCAA tournament, but it had to replace an All-American who gave it four great seasons. A veteran guard got benched, and the players have been accused of lacking a killer instinct. In a defeat of historic proportions, Duke demolished them on their own floor.

That description fits both Maryland and Wake Forest, and if the Terps (10-5, 3-2 ACC) could rebound from a shaky start in the ACC, so can the Demon Deacons. That's what coach Gary Williams has spent the last 48 hours telling his resurgent team, which stretched its win streak to three games with an upset of No. 1 North Carolina on Wednesday night.

Next up is struggling Wake Forest tonight (7 o'clock, ESPN) at Lawrence Joel Coliseum, where the Demon Deacons just got embarrassed by Duke, 88-52, a few hours before Maryland's shocker. It was the sixth loss in eight games for Wake Forest (8-6, 1-3), and the latest sign that life after Tim Duncan might not be much of a life at all.

And the news didn't get any better last night when coach Dave Odom announced that 7-foot-1 sophomore center Loren Woods was suspended indefinitely.

Duncan put up 2,117 points and 1,570 rebounds in his four-year career, got the Demon Deacons within one game of the Final Four in 1995 and was the consensus National Player of the Year last season. He's putting together an NBA Rookie of the Year candidacy with the San Antonio Spurs, but Wake Forest had other holes to fill, too.

"We knew we were going to lose Tim, but it wasn't only him," said Odom, who is using 10 players while looking for the right rotation. "We also lost [Sean] Allen and [Ricky] Peral at forward. You put that in as a package loss on the front line, and no one in the league, or the country for that matter, has had to deal with a loss like that.

"Our low post game is nowhere near what it's been for the last eight years, not just the last four."

And it doesn't look to get better without Woods.

"I have suspended Loren from our team for an indefinite period based on a mutual feeling with him that he needs some time away from basketball," Odom said last night in a statement.

"This is solely a basketball issue, made in the hope that Loren will come to understand that the game is not an all-or-nothing proposition and must be kept in the proper perspective."

Woods, the team's third-leading scorer (11.6 ppg) and its top rebounder (8.6), gave the Demon Deacons a twin towers look last year, but had gotten little help inside this time, as forwards Rafael Vidaurreta and swingman Steve Goolsby were a combined 0-for-6 from the field against Duke.

Seniors Tony Rutland and Jerry Braswell started the past two seasons in the backcourt, but freshman guard Robert O'Kelley (15.6 ppg) became the leading scorer, then barged into the starting lineup.

Rutland was benched after going 1-for-9 in an overtime loss at Virginia, but started against Duke instead of Braswell, who has been hampered by a sore elbow.

Picked by the media to finish sixth in the ACC, the Demon Deacons have beaten only Clemson in the ACC. Wednesday's embarrassment against Duke was the Demon Deacons' worst loss ever at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.

"Their backs are to the wall," Williams said yesterday. "You lose a home game in this league, whether it's to Duke or anybody else, and you're going to be hungrier next time out. I'm sure at the beginning of the year that they thought of this game as one they were going to get."

And what of the Terps? The toughness that Keith Booth took with him to the NBA was displayed by several players against North Carolina. Freshmen Mike Mardesich and Terence Morris are filling bigger roles, and junior Terrell Stokes is handling the point like he did at the start of last season, when the Terps began 17-2.

"I can always tell when I've got their attention, and they listened in practice [Thursday]," Williams said. "The big thing right now is developing the attitude that each game, the emotion has to be there."

Terps tonight

Opponent: Wake Forest

Site: Lawrence Joel Coliseum, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Time: 7

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Records: UM (10-5, 3-2 ACC); Wake Forest (8-6, 1-3)

Line: Maryland by 2 1/2

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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