Saturday, February 28, 2004

Terps Rally But Fall to Wake Forest 91-83

Originally posted on "TerpTown" on the network and syndicated to Yahoo

Once again, Maryland found itself facing a double-digit deficit at halftime against a ranked ACC opponent. Once again, they mounted a furious comeback in the second half. Once again, it was not enough to pull out a much-needed win as the Terps fell to visiting Wake Forest 91-83.

Today Maryland (14-11, 5-9) showed levels of emotion, toughness, and resiliency they have rarely displayed this season. Ultimately, however, the #11 Demon Deacons (19-6, 9-5) made longer shots than the Terps. Both teams shot 49.2% from the floor, but the key to Wake's victory came from beyond the three-point arc. The Deacons made 13-23 three-pointers compared to 3-14 threes by Maryland.

Wake Forest's Vytas Danelius threatened to put Maryland away early all by himself. Danelius, who was a preseason all-ACC pick but came in averaging 5.2 points per game, doubled that production in the games' first seven minutes. He knocked down three three-pointers on his way to 11 of the Deacons' first 23 points. Maryland Coach Gary Williams admitted after the game,” We didn't expect that out of him.”

Danelius' burst spurred Wake to a 23-15 lead with 12:59 remaining in the first half, at which point Maryland began their first rally. Chris McCray and Travis Garrison led the Terps on an 11-2 run that put Maryland ahead 26-25. McCray, coming off the bench for the second straight game, exploded for a fadeaway jumper, two free throws, and a three-pointer, and Garrison added a reverse layup and a jump shot.

The Comcast Center crowd made its presence felt during this stretch, responding to John Gilchrist's urging and rolling waves of sound down upon the court. This obviously did not bother the Deacons' Justin Gray, who responded by hitting a jumper and a three-pointer to regain the lead for his team.

The Terps' Nik Caner-Medley and Gilchrist each made two free throws to tie the game at 30-30, but Wake Forest took control of the game by scoring the next ten points. Three pointers by Taron Downey and Chris Paul and two hoops by Jamaal Levy propelled the Deacons into a 40-30 lead, which grew to 46-34 at halftime.

Wake Forest dominated the boards in the first half. The Deacons held a 27-14 rebounding advantage at the break, including a 12-4 edge on the offensive boards. Amazingly, the Terps' starters combined for only three rebounds. Coach Williams said, “I thought in the first half we got consistently hurt on the glass.” Wake also hurt Maryland from beyond the three-point arc, making 7-10 while the Terps converted only 2-8.

Wake Forest pushed their lead out to 57-41 with 16:53 remaining in the game, but the Terps rallied for the second time. Maryland played some of their best basketball of the season over the next few minutes, using a 13-2 run to cut the Deacons' lead to 59-54.

McCray began the run by dishing to Caner-Medley for a layup, then finding Travis Garrison for an easy hoop the next time down the court. Caner-Medley followed with two free throws, then Gilchrist found Garrison for a dunk that brought the loudest crowd explosion yet. McCray added a free throw and a jumper during this stretch.

A few moments later, a Justin Gray three pushed Wake's lead back out to eight, but the Terps responded by scoring the next six points. Caner-Medley, breaking out of his recent slump, scored on a layup and turn-around jumper, then D. J. Strawberry came up with a steal and fed McCray for a fast-break layup. Suddenly, the Deacons led by only 64-62, and the Terps had outscored them by 21-7 over 6:54.

Over the next few minutes Wake Forest, often working deep into the shot clock, made critical shots just when it looked like the game was slipping away. Leading only by 64-62, Levy scored on an acrobatic layup off a feed from Taron Downey, then Downey knocked down a three-pointer. After two Maryland free throws, Danelius and Downey made back-to-back threes to put the Deacons ahead 75-64 with 5:08 remaining.

The score was 79-67 with 3:08 remaining when the Terps rallied one final time. Gilchrist found McCray breaking toward the hoop on an inbound pass for a three-point play, then Maryland forced Wake into a shot clock violation. Caner-Medley knocked down a three, Gilchrist stole the inbound pass, and McCray made 1-2 free throws to pull Maryland within 79-74 with 1:44 left in the game.

The Terps could not get in that one final knockout punch, however. Wake Forest made enough free throws down the stretch to offset a courageous effort from Gilchrist, who scored Maryland's last nine points.

Coach Williams again had kind words for his point guard, “I thought John Gilchrist did a good job. He stayed though against a very good guard (Chris Paul).” Down in Winston-Salem, Paul had dominated the second half and led the Deacons to a comeback win over the Terps. Today, Gilchrist scored a game-high 26 points and dished out five assists with only one turnover. Paul did have ten assists but also committed eight turnovers and scored only eight points. Call it a split decision between two of the best point guards in the ACC.

Caner-Medley returned to the scoring column in a big way today, finishing with 20 points. McCray, continuing his fine play off the bench, added 18 points. The Terps committed only four turnovers in the second half while forcing 11 by Wake Forest. They were also more competitive off the boards, holding the Deacons to a 17-13 rebounding edge after the break.

Danelius led Wake with a career-high 23 points, while Gray added 22. Levy and Downey each scored 14 for the Deacons. Levy was the game's leading rebound with 15. Gary Williams said,”
Just watch Levy sometimes if you want to see how to be a great offensive rebounder.”

Williams was understandably pleased with his team's play in the second half. “I liked our attitude in the second half in terms of competing.” Williams said. “We put ourselves with a chance to win the game.” He was also frustrated with the result, “We played well when we got behind, but that gets old.”

Noticeably absent during the Terps' comeback was their only senior, Jamar Smith, who played only one minute in the second half. Smith finished with no points and no rebounds in only eight minutes of action. Hassan Fofana, on the other hand, played 25 minutes and contributed six rebounds and three blocked shots.

When asked about playing Fofana ahead of Smith, Williams said, “He gave us a better defensive presence. He's been doing that for a while.” Could Fofana replace Smith in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game at NC State? “I haven't thought anything about Raleigh yet,” Williams said. Given the resurgence of Garrison and McCray after both were taken out of the starting lineup, it might not be a bad idea to give Fofana the start.

In a game where three-point shooting was a key, it was puzzling why Mike Jones played only five minutes for the Terps and did not attempt a shot. Unlike many Maryland fans, I have not been riding the “play Mike Jones” bandwagon, but it seems that today's game called for the Terps' best three-point shooter to at least take a shot.

In the post-game locker room, Caner-Medley told reporters, “We have two games left and we feel like we need to win both of those games, but we still have a chance. You can't act like you're out of it and hang your head. You have to be a man about it and try to win those two games.”
The Terrapins played like men today, just not good three-point shooting men.

Notes From Under the Shell
The Terps, at 5-9 in the conference, are now in a tie for seventh in the ACC with Virginia. Next Sunday's regular season finale at Comcast against the Cavaliers could decide which team avoids the dreaded play-in game at the ACC Tournament. Tell me you anticipated THAT scenario before the season started.

With today's loss, Maryland clinched their first losing ACC record since the 1992-93 season. Since the Terps are still very much as risk of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since that season, it is unfortunate that there are bound to be a lot of comparisons between that Maryland team and this year's squad. Maryland had a dysfunctional blend of seniors and highly touted freshman in 1992-93 and posted a 2-14 ACC record. The 2003-04 Terrapins are a much better team than that one was.

The Terrapins had won their previous five games vs. Wake Forest in College Park. Maryland still holds a 56-53 edge in the all-time series.

Maryland has now lost their last seven games vs. ranked teams and has a 3-8 record vs. Top 25 opponents this season.

The Terps were assessed a technical foul late in the game for calling a time-out when there had none left. Strawberry had scrambled for a loose ball and was about to be tied up when the officials said he asked for a timeout. On his way back to the bench, Strawberry insisted he did not do that. Downey made both free throws for Wake Forest.

Maryland, second in the nation in blocked shots with just over seven per game, swatted away ten today. Along with Fofana, Garrison and Caner-Medley each had three blocks.
Thirteen is an unlucky number for the Terps when that is the total of three-pointers their opponent makes. Gonzaga and West Virginia both made 13 threes vs. Maryland this season, also Maryland losses.

Former Georgetown coach John Thompson attended today's game, serving as the color analyst for the national radio broadcast on the Westwood One network. I'm glad someone gave him directions, since neither he nor his teams ever found their way to College Park while Thompson was coaching.

Ray Lewis was apparently the Baltimore Ravens' employee of the month, joining incoming Ravens' owner at his mid-court courtside seats. Also in attendance was the state's Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele.

Maryland's next game is Wednesday night, when they travel to NC State. The game will be televised on the Raycom/Jefferson Pilot network at 9 PM.


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