Terps whip Wake again

Maryland dominates Deacons, 71-53, rolls into ACC semifinals

`D' sparks 6th victory in row

Third win over Wake brings third Duke test

March 10, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- The Maryland Terrapins started their current roll three weeks ago against Wake Forest. Last night in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, No. 11 Maryland kept its recent dominance going by making the Demon Deacons their hapless victims for one more night.

Sparked by a 10-0 run early in the second half, Maryland broke open a close game, then proceeded to toy with the nation's 22nd-ranked team en route to a 71-53 rout before 40,083 at the Georgia Dome.

The victory, Maryland's sixth straight, completed a three-game sweep against Wake Forest and sent the Terps into a much-anticipated rubber match against second-seeded Duke in today's 4 p.m. semifinal game.

Eleven days ago, the Terps whipped Duke, 91-80, at Cameron Indoor Stadium, after dropping a heartbreaking overtime decision to the Blue Devils at Cole Field House a month earlier.

"They had better hurry up with the anticipation, because we play in about 15 hours," said Maryland coach Gary Williams, who made a humorous reference to the overtime loss, which already has aired several times on ESPN Classic. "One was a classic, one wasn't. Hopefully, it will be a great game. The most important thing we can do is now is rest and get ready to play."

Maryland (21-9), trying to win its first ACC tournament since 1984, is seeking to return to its second consecutive ACC final, after missing the big game for 15 straight seasons. The Terps are playing in the semifinals for the seventh straight time, the longest current streak in the conference.

As they have done so often during their impressive turnaround -- Maryland was 15-9 and coming off a stunning loss to last-place Florida State on Feb. 14, before starting its revival with a 16-point victory over Wake Forest -- the Terrapins made it look easy.

Their defense continued its suffocating ways by making life miserable for Wake Forest's shooters and ball-handlers. Other than senior guard Robert O'Kelley (20 points), whose 11 second-half points were meaningless, the Demon Deacons had no place to go.

Wake Forest shot just 31.7 percent from the field, marking the fifth time in the past six games that a Maryland opponent has failed to shoot higher than 36.5 percent. The Demon Deacons managed only four baskets during the first 11 minutes of the second half, when the Terps turned a 31-26 halftime lead into a 53-35 advantage.

Maryland also forced 16 turnovers, and Wake Forest produced only five assists. The 53 points were a season low for Wake Forest, whose previous season low was the 57 it scored in the last loss to Maryland.

"Defensively right now, [the Terps] are at the top of their game. Offensively, they're playing very well, but they're awfully tough to score on right now," Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said.

"I thought our shot selection was questionable at best. We kept taking it into the lane and not reversing the ball, and consequently we were shooting through arms and bodies all night long. That's not a good decision when you're playing a good team like Maryland."

The bad signs started early for Wake Forest (19-10), which lost Craig Dawson, its third-leading scorer, to a separated left shoulder about five minutes into the contest. The Demon Deacons, who missed their first eight shots, showed some spunk early by taking a 21-20 lead and hanging tough against Maryland's relentless defense by going 7-for-7 at the foul line to trail Maryland by just five at the break.

But Maryland, after surrendering the first basket of the second half on a goaltending call against Byron Mouton (seven points, seven rebounds), overwhelmed the sixth-seeded Demon Deacons.

It was another businesslike effort from a dangerous, single-minded squad. There was no looking past Wake Forest, no peeking ahead to the Blue Devils.

"A lot of that has to do with what we've been through this year," said point guard Steve Blake, who was superb with nine points and nine assists in 28 minutes. "We've lost big games because of a lack of concentration. You don't get to play the next game until you win the first game."

Guard Juan Dixon led the Terps with 15 points, adding five rebounds and three steals. Center Lonny Baxter had 14 points and dominated the boards with a game-high 11 rebounds. Senior forward Terence Morris had his typical all-around game with 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals.

Blake, a dangerous shooter in recent weeks, made back-to-back three-pointers to spark the 10-0 run that pushed the Terps in front 41-28 with 16:40 left in the game.

"He really is the head of the engine," Odom said of Blake. "He really gets the other four playing the pace and the speed and execution that makes them very difficult to stop. During that five-, six- or seven-minute stretch when they really got ahead of us, he really was the catalyst."

Maryland, which led several times by 20 points and was up by as many as 22, followed Blake's three-point flurry by taking out the Demon Deacons with an 8-0 spurt, capped by Dixon's steal and short jumper that made it 49-30 with 13:07 left.

The rest was a mere formality, as Maryland beat the same ranked team for the third time in one season, marking the first time that has ever happened in College Park.

The margin of victory also was the second-largest away from Cole Field House against a ranked team in school history. The largest was a 22-point win in the ACC tournament quarterfinals -- also in Atlanta -- against North Carolina State in former coach Bob Wade's final game in 1989.

The next season, Williams took over at Maryland.

"I felt like we played two of our best games against Wake Forest earlier in the season and I didn't know if we could play that well three times," Williams said.

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