Terps seek to reverse fortune

0-3 vs. ranked teams, No. 12 UM looking to upend No. 10 Wake

College Basketball

January 17, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - The 12th-ranked Maryland Terrapins view themselves as potential national championship contenders. And with so many games left to play in the rough Atlantic Coast Conference, they would rather not look at tonight's Cole Field House invasion by No. 10 Wake Forest as a must-win affair.

But make no mistake. If Maryland wants to legitimize its place among the nation's elite teams, a victory over Wake Forest is the way to start bolstering that argument.

The Terps might be sporting a shiny, 12-4 record, including a 3-1 mark against the ACC, yet Maryland has produced an 0-3 thud against ranked teams. After losing to Illinois in the Maui Invitational in the season's second game, they dropped an overtime thriller in Milwaukee against Wisconsin on Nov. 29.

Then came last week's 86-83 loss to rival North Carolina at Cole Field House. Another home loss to a heavyweight like Wake Forest could prove to be lethal down the road - not to mention on the road at places like Carolina and Wake.

"If we're good, these are the types of games we have to win," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "I think we haven't played our best game yet against a ranked team. We have to play better. I'm not asking the team to do something we can't do."

Wake Forest (13-2, 2-2) should provide the Terps with a good barometer.

The Demon Deacons, sporting their best team since the Tim Duncan days of the mid-1990s, match up nicely with Maryland, particularly in the front court and in the depth area. The Demon Deacons are running and scoring more than a typical Dave Odom-coached team. And they will enter Cole Field House eager to erase a bad stretch, during which they have lost two of three games, including Saturday's overtime loss at Georgia Tech.

Wake moved into the top 10 by routing Kansas back on Dec. 7, and solidified its place by trouncing Virginia two weeks ago. The Demon Deacons also need to reverse recent fortune in College Park. Their last two visits have yielded defeats by 22 and 23 points.

"Maryland has jumped on us with everything they've had the last two years. If we play defense at Cole Field House the way we did at Georgia Tech, they will run up their customary 110 to 115 points," Odom said.

"The concentration and focus you have on the road has to be greater than it is at home. It requires great leadership, great focus and great concentration. It all comes down to mental toughness and adjusting yourselves to a hostile environment."

Maryland enjoyed a recent, four-game stretch of 100-point games, but that would be a shocking development tonight. Wake Forest is allowing just 60.3 points a game, and has held 24 consecutive opponents under 50 percent shooting.

The big men could have the final say. Wake junior 6-foot-9 forward Darius Songalia, who distinguished himself with the Lithuanian team that won the bronze medal in the Summer Olympics and might be among the best unknown post players, is averaging 15.5 points and shooting 62.2 percent against the ACC.

Senior center Josh Shoemaker (8.6 rebounds per game) will battle Maryland's Lonny Baxter gamely, while sophomore forward Josh Howard (13.7 ppg) and junior forward Antwan Scott (9.1 ppg) pack more punch.

The Terps also intend to tame shooting guard Robert O'Kelley, who has hurt them several times during his five-year career and just passed the 1,700-point career mark. Maryland guard Juan Dixon, averaging 22.8 points against the ACC, usually has his say.

Maryland improved its perimeter defense markedly in Sunday's 76-55 blowout at Florida State. The Terps had better be on their toes with slick point guard Ervin Murray (50 assists, 10 turnovers) distributing the ball.

Two good benches also will be on display. Terps backup point guard Drew Nicholas continues to outscore and outplay the struggling Steve Blake. And junior forward Danny Miller (7.6 ppg in his last eight games) hopes to counter junior guard Craig Dawson (14.7 ppg), who has come off the bench to lead the Demon Deacons in scoring.

"We haven't won a big game yet," Blake said. "You have to find a way to win one of these games. If you get the win, it gets your confidence going. If you don't win, you're very disappointed and you have to regroup again."

NOTES: Sophomore Tahj Holden (fractured bone in left foot) has practiced for two days on a limited basis and is expected to be in uniform for tonight's game, although Williams said he has no plans to play Holden. Holden should see his first action since Dec. 6 at North Carolina State on Sunday. ... Before making only 14 of 25 free throws at Florida State, the Terps had been shooting 85.6 percent at the foul line vs. the ACC. ... Tonight starts a tough stretch for the Terps, who follow their N.C. State trip with a home game against Duke on Jan. 27, then a trip to Virginia on Jan. 31. ... Terence Morris has led the Terps in rebounding for four straight games.

Terps tonight

Opponent: Wake Forest

Site: Cole Field House, College Park

Time: 9

TV/Radio: ESPN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Rankings: Wake Forest No. 10; Maryland No. 12

Records: Maryland 12-4, 3-1 ACC; Wake Forest 13-2, 2-2 ACC

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