Blue-collar/blue-chip gap gives Maryland the blues

COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -- There's always danger in college basketball when the foundation of your team is blue-collar seniors who have been role players for most of their careers and blue-chip freshmen who aren't ready to be stars.

This is the situation in which Maryland finds itself four games into the Atlantic Coast Conference season. The Terrapins don't have a Walt Williams to score a high percentage of their points; they don't even have a Vince Broadnax to be the defensive stopper.


The result has been four straight ACC losses, including Saturday night's 86-73 defeat by previously winless Wake Forest before a mostly quiet sellout crowd of 14,500 at Cole Field House. And the season, so promising two weeks ago after a victory over Louisville, is starting to look disappointing.

Asked if the defeats are beginning to take their toll, Maryland coach Gary Williams said: "Especially with younger players, it can. We try to keep it in perspective, but it's difficult for the players to get it [their enthusiasm] up for the next game and be ready to play."


It doesn't get any easier for Maryland (8-5, 0-4). After failing to stop a Wake Forest team that was struggling with its offense -- the Demon Deacons had lost their first two ACC games by averaging 66 points, including an overtime loss to Florida State -- the Terps now must take on the nation's No. 1 scoring team, Oklahoma, tomorrow night at the Baltimore Arena.

"I think if we don't start playing better defense -- and defensive rebounding is part of that -- we're going to really struggle," Williams said after the Wake Forest game. "We're not going to block many shots. We're not going to outleap anybody. I don't see our offense as a problem. We can score. But we have to look at how we can stop people."

Junior forward Rodney Rogers played his typical game for the Demon Deacons, finishing with 23 points and 10 rebounds, but the Terps couldn't stop Randolph Childress. The sophomore guard, who sat out last season with a knee injury, scored a career-high 30. Johnny Rhodes led Maryland with 21.

Childress, who nearly came to Maryland before the basketball team was hit was NCAA sanctions three years ago, scored nine points in a 17-2 run that helped Wake Forest (9-3, 1-2) erase an early seven-point deficit and take control. The Demon Deacons led by as many as 15 points in the second half before the Terps cut it back to six with a little more than two minutes left.

Not that the Terps haven't had their problems offensively. They went nearly six minutes without a point in the first half against Wake Forest, the fifth straight game in which they suffered a long drought. Except for forcing four turnovers late in the first half, the bench provided absolutely no lift for Maryland.

"It seems like we can't throw the ball in the ocean sometimes," said senior guard Kevin McLinton, who missed 10 of 16 shots.

"Physically, we've been outmatched our first four ACC games," said Williams. "Part of the problem is that we're not a great perimeter-shooting team. If we don't execute our offense, we're not going to get a lot of follows. Then we're not getting back [on defense]. Any time you lose, there a little blame at both ends of the court."

Right now, there's enough blame to go around at Maryland.


NOTES: Freshman F Nemanja Petrovic, who has been bothered by shin splints the past few weeks, did not dress for Saturday's game. . . . Evers Burns, who had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Terps, pulled down his 500th career rebound.