COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- Like the Nixon tapes, the University of Maryland basketball team has its missing minutes. They have appeared in each of the first four Atlantic Coast Conference games, and when they occur, the Terrapins usually disappear.
It happened for nearly six minutes in the first half last night against Wake Forest, and Maryland never really recovered. Though they made it more interesting down the stretch than in their previous three ACC losses, the Terps couldn't overcome their drought and lost to the Demon Deacons, 86-73, before a sellout crowd of 14,500 at Cole Field House.
The loss was the fourth straight for Maryland (8-5, 0-4), which jumps out of the conference Tuesday night when it plays 10th-ranked Oklahoma at the Baltimore Arena. The victory was the first in the ACC this year for Wake Forest (9-3, 1-2), which had been one of the league's early disappointments.
"Our problem continued tonight. Until we start playing better defense -- and defensive rebounding is a part of that -- we are going to struggle," said Maryland coach Gary Williams.
"We're not the type of team that's going to out-leap people. Physically, we've got out-matched our first four ACC games."
Said Wake Forest coach Dave Odom: "I don't know how you gauge this win without being too flowery, but I can tell you we had the feeling we had two desperate basketball teams going into this game.
"If we did anything right tonight, it was that we did not lose our concentration," Odom said.
It wasn't just the sheer strength of Rodney Rogers that hurt Maryland inside, it was the uncanny shooting of Randolph Childress outside.
While Rogers, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound junior All-American put up typical numbers (23 points, 10 rebounds), Childress played the best game of his college career.
The sophomore guard from Clinton, Md., who missed last season because of a knee injury, had a career-high 30 on eight of 11 from the field, 11 of 12 from the foul line. Childress had nine of his points in the 17-2 run that erased Maryland's early 15-8 lead.
That stretch went a long way to help Wake Forest.
"We played well after that until the last minute of the first half," said Rogers, referring to a wild 47 seconds during which Maryland cut its deficit from 12 to seven by hitting five of eight free throws and forcing four straight turnovers. "We came out pretty well in the second half, and we never let them take control of the game."
The first comeback by Maryland began after Williams, who had picked up a technical during Wake Forest's big run, yanked Kevin McLinton with 47.1 seconds left in the first half after the senior guard forced a bad shot.
With a lineup that included a backcourt of freshman Duane Simpkins and junior Mike Thibeault of Glen Burnie, the Terps clawed their way to 38-31.
But after three-pointers by Johnny Rhodes and Exree Hipp -- sandwiching one by Rogers -- made it four early in the second half, Maryland did not get any closer.
Childress then scored seven points in a 9-0 run that pushed the Demon Deacons ahead by 13.
The Terps cut their deficit to 73-67 late in the game on a jumper by McLinton with 2:13 to go.
"It's always something," said McLinton, who finished with 16 points and six assists before fouling out late for the second straight game. "We got it down to eight or six, and then boom, boom, they score a couple of baskets and get it back to 10 or 15. We always seem to go through a stretch when we can't throw the ball into the ocean."
"Part of the problem is we're not a good perimeter shooting team," Williams said.
"It takes execution, and we have not executed for 20 minutes offensively."
The one bright spot last night for Maryland was the play of Rhodes. After shooting miserably in his first three ACC games, the freshman guard from Washington finished with 21 points on nine of 15 from the field, including three of seven on three-pointers.
Most of his early baskets came on slashing drives and then later from the outside.
"He made a couple of shots by taking it to the basket, and that seemed to open things up for him outside," Williams said.
While Rhodes was happy to emerge from his recent slump, he was wearing the confused look of his teammates. Two weeks ago tomorrow, Maryland had beaten Louisville to go 7-1.
There was talk of the Terps being a top 25 team, a threat in the ACC.
But none of that has materialized.
"I don't know what we can say,"
"If we didn't have the effort . . . but we're trying as hard as we can. Obviously something's missing."
For one, several key minutes in each game.
For another, an ACC victory.
NOTES: Evers Burns, who recently scored his 1,000th point at Maryland, picked up his 500th career rebound last night in a 15-point, 12-rebound performance. . . . Freshman forward Nemanja Petrovic didn't suit up because of shin splints. . . . Maryland's bench was outscored 16-2.