Terps awaken in rout

Maryland ends slide with 73-51 romp over Wake Forest

UM gets first ACC victory

Holden, Baxter step up

defense quiets Deacons

January 20, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- More than midway through the college basketball season, Maryland coach Gary Williams is still searching for the right rotation. Suffice it to say, it will include a larger role for freshman forward Tahj Holden after last night's 73-51 pounding of Wake Forest at Cole Field House.

The Terps (12-5, 1-3) ended their first three-game losing streak in three years, as they played nasty defense for nearly all of the 40 minutes and got a career-high 17 points and six rebounds from Holden. He had totaled two points as Maryland dropped its first three Atlantic Coast Conference games.

No. 24 Maryland had lost seven of its last nine to Wake Forest (11-6, 2-3), but Lonny Baxter dunked off the opening tip, and the Demon Deacons never had a possession to tie after the first minute. The Terps made their first nine shots, and their lead ballooned to 20 points as early as the seventh minute.

With Baxter in foul trouble and preseason All-American forward Terence Morris mired in an offensive slump that saw him shoot 3-for-11 and limp off with a turned left ankle, the Terps needed another front-court player to step forward. Holden was up to the challenge.

"If I get the minutes, I'll keep doing that," said Holden, who had scored a total of 24 points in Maryland's first 16 games. "It's all about getting used to the system and the new environment. The coaches told me that if I'm open to shoot the ball. We desperately needed this game to get back on track."

Even without the lift from Holden, the Terps probably would have prospered, because they came up with their best defensive effort of the season, considering the circumstances. Wake Forest made just 29 percent (18 of 62) of its field-goal attempts, the worst shooting display in an ACC game this season.

The work at that end was led by freshman point guard Steve Blake, who limited Robert O'Kelley, the Demon Deacons' leading scorer, to four points.

"Once he gave the ball up, Steve did a good job of making him work to get it back," Williams said of O'Kelley, who has burned Maryland in the past. "He's one of the greatest streak shooters I've ever seen. The key was we never let him get that streak going."

Maryland got 18 points from sophomore center Baxter, who ended his slump by making his first seven shots. Juan Dixon went off at the end of the first half and finished with 18, but the revelation was Holden, who made all three of his three-pointers, the most by a Terp since December.

Holden played 18 minutes, after totaling 12 in ACC losses to N.C. State, Duke and Georgia Tech. He presumably has moved ahead of junior Mike Mardesich in the front-court mix.

"You don't expect that, to be honest," Williams said of Holden's 5-of-7 shooting. "You just want him to rebound and play with a lot of energy. He made his first shot, and got comfortable."

Behind Baxter, the Terps made their first nine shots and went on a 12-0 run that led to a 24-4 lead with 13: 20 left in the first half. They stopped attacking the basket -- Maryland went 21 minutes without a free throw -- and allowed the Demon Deacons to get within eight, at 37-29, early in the second half.

Baxter's power move provided Maryland with its first points of the second half with 16: 50 left, and ignited a 10-0 spurt that put away Wake Forest for good. Morris broke the free-throw drought with a three-point play off the offensive board.

Holden followed with a three-point play of his own off an in-bounds pass, then added a three-pointer from the left corner. When he flipped in a left-handed shot en route to a three-point play that extended Maryland's lead to 54-36 with 8: 52 left, Wake Forest coach Dave Odom had seen enough. He kicked the scorer's table.

Danny Miller followed with two baskets, the second in transition, to push the Maryland lead back up to 58-38 with 7: 39 left. It grew to 61-40 on a Morris basket with 6: 04 left, but he limped off the court after he turned his ankle during the Terps' next possession.

Trainer J.J. Bush immediately iced the ankle. Williams said he wouldn't know until today if the injury was more serious than a minor sprain, but Dixon said that Morris was fine.

The lead grew as large as 69-40 in the cathartic victory.

"At lot of pressure was on us tonight to play well," Williams said. "We got the win, everything looks better now, and that's a start."

A loss would have sent Maryland into the cellar of the ACC with lowly Clemson and endangered the Terps' quest for a seventh straight bid to the NCAA tournament. Instead, Maryland is a Saturday win over the Tigers away from the middle of the pack in a conference race that is wide open once you get past Duke.

NOTES: Maryland made it official and named Morris and senior walk-on Matt Hahn co-captains. The two have been coming out for the captains' meeting since the start of the season. The Terps had 12 steals, their 10th straight game with at least 10 Maryland missed 24 of its last 33 shots in the first half and stumbled out of the gate in the second, but the hot start and strong finish left it with a shooting percentage of .470 (31 of 66).

Next for Terps

Opponent: Clemson

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

Where: Cole Field House, College Park

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

ACC standings

School Conf. Overall

Duke 5-0 14-2

N.C. State 3-2 12-3

Virginia 3-2 12-5

North Carolina 2-2 11-7

Georgia Tech 2-2 9-7

Florida State 2-2 7-8

Wake Forest 2-3 11-6

Maryland 1-3 12-5

Clemson 0-4 6-11

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