WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- When they boarded a plane in North Carolina three days earlier, just hours removed from a disastrous 34-point loss to the No. 3 Tar Heels, the Maryland Terrapins were humbled, embarrassed and even a little shell-shocked.
It's pretty likely that some of those feelings lingered on the Terps' trip back to College Park this morning.
With most of their starters again falling flat against one of the nation's elite teams and an Atlantic Coast Conference foe, and with their top scorer playing just nine minutes, the Terps were handled last night by fourth-ranked Wake Forest, 81-66, before 14,665 at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
Junior guard Justin Gray hit six of nine three-pointers and led the Demon Deacons with 25 points, 16 coming in the decisive first half, as he sparked a 16-3 half-ending run that helped put away the Terps (9-4, 1-2) long before the final buzzer.
Wake Forest (14-1, 3-0 ACC) also got 12 points and 10 rebounds from center Eric Williams, and 14 points from sophomore point guard Chris Paul.
"We're struggling right now," said Terps coach Gary Williams, who kept junior point guard John Gilchrist out of the starting lineup because of an academic issue and then sat him for the second half because he didn't feel Gilchrist (back and wrist) was healthy enough to be a key contributor.
"We're just not letting it go. We're holding back a little," Williams said. "We are not playing with the intensity level necessary for us to be successful against tough competition."
Junior forward Nik Caner-Medley scored 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting and was one of the few bright spots for the Terps, who were hampered again by some of the same problems that contributed to a 109-75 thumping by North Carolina on Saturday.
Maryland made just one of 14 three-pointers, its lone make coming when reserve Mike Jones (nine points) hit one with less than five minutes left. The Terps are a combined 7-for-54 in three ACC games.
The Terps again were out-rebounded badly, 51-36, and after entering the game shooting under 72 percent from the free-throw line, Maryland managed only a 7-for-16 effort last night.
"We're not a good shooting team right now," Williams said.
Added junior forward Travis Garrison: "When things like [poor shooting] are happening, you have to look at the way we run our offense, and you have to look at yourself. Are you putting effort in after practice? Are you working on your shot?"
Chris McCray shot just 1-for-7 last night after a 3-for-17 effort against Carolina; sophomore center Ekene Ibekwe was 4-for-11 and finished in single digits in points for the fifth time in nine games.
Lopsided losses are becoming too familiar for the Terps, who were beaten in similar fashion by the Tar Heels after they staged a 29-5 run spanning halftime and went on to deliver Maryland its worst loss in nearly five seasons.
This time, the Demon Deacons turned a competitive game into a blowout, expanding a 47-26 halftime lead with a 9-0 run to start the second half, all while Gilchrist sat on the bench and watched the painful proceedings.
Still, he said he was unimpressed by Wake.
"Personally I felt like tonight those guys really weren't that good," said Gilchrist, who scored two points, his lowest total since last season's opener. "I only can see it through my eyes. I felt we should have won."
Sterling Ledbetter played most of the second half as point guard and did a solid job, engineering a modest 8-0 run to cut the once-29-point Wake Forest lead to 57-34.
At that point, Maryland's lineup on the floor was Ledbetter, Jones, Will Bowers and starters McCray and Ibekwe. Williams took solace in his players cutting into Wake's lead instead of letting it expand like it did against Carolina.
"Sometimes, your young guys have to pick up some of your veteran players," Williams said. "Hopefully that can happen with us."
Said Caner-Medley: "The main problem is more consistently running our offense and consistently playing great defense. To win at the University of North Carolina and Wake Forest right now, you have to play really close to a perfect game. You have to play great defense, control the tempo, play great offense, and we didn't do that."
A three-pointer by Jones trimmed the Demon Deacons' lead to 69-55 with under five minutes to play, but the Terps got no closer.
"Give Maryland credit. They kept scratching," said Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser. "It was almost like we were trying to get the game over with. We have to get better at that."
Williams, whose teams have been trademarked by their resiliency, recognized his team has to improve in a lot of areas, also.
Maryland plays its last non-conference game of the regular season on Saturday at Comcast Center against Temple.
"I saw some things in the second half that give us some encouragement that we can get better," Williams said. "We have to improve. I think that's pretty obvious."
Team W L Pct. W L Pct.
Wake Forest 3 0 1.000 14 1 .933
North Carolina 2 0 1.000 13 1 .929
Georgia Tech 2 0 1.000 11 2 .846
Duke 1 0 1.000 11 0 1.000
Miami 1 1 .500 10 3 .750
Florida State 1 1 .500 9 6 .600
Maryland 1 2 .333 9 4 .692
N.C. State 0 1 .000 10 4 .714
Virginia 0 2 .000 9 3 .750
Clemson 0 2 .000 9 5 .643
Virginia Tech 0 2 .000 6 6 .500
No. 4 Wake Forest 81, Maryland 66
No. 8 Georgia Tech at No. 3 N. Carolina, 7 p.m.
Clemson at Florida State, 7 p.m.
Bethune-Cookman at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.
Miami at Virginia, 7:30 p.m.
No. 5 Duke at N.C. State, 7 p.m.