Gary Williams was standing in the visiting dressing room at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C., late Wednesday night discussing his team's disastrous performance against Wake Forest and the 63-54 defeat that resulted from it.
Williams, who has worried this season how the seventh-ranked Terrapins handle their new status as one of college basketball's top teams, was asked about the latest sign of trouble: a big spread in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated.
"I wonder if anybody read it," Williams said jokingly, alluding to the highly publicized swimsuit edition in which the Terps article appeared.
Whether or not Maryland became the latest victim of the "SI jinx" -- the Terps weren't on the cover, after all -- Williams was again questioning how his players reacted to the swirl of attention that has only increased since their recent upset over then-top-ranked North Carolina.
"It might be the pressure," said Williams. "Sometimes a team that isn't used to being in that situation feels the pressure more than a team that has. The attention is great, but we have to forget about it when the game starts. We just have to go out and play."
Instead, Maryland forgot how to play against the No. 14 Demon Deacons. The Terps scored the fewest points they've had all season (the fewest since the third game of the 1989-90 season, Williams' first in College Park). Maryland shot a season-low 33.9 percent on 19 of 56 from the field, including one of 15 on threes.
The Terps had as many turnovers as baskets, and the last three proved costly. They came after Maryland had cut a 12-point deficit to 58-54 with 3:36 left in the game. Despite Randolph Childress being held to eight points and Tim Duncan to seven, Wake Forest (16-5, 7-4) got a career-high 19 points from freshman guard Tony Rutland and 11 points and 10 rebounds from senior forward Scooter Banks.
"We didn't run our offense, we missed at least four layups, we shot too quickly and we turned the ball over too many times," said Williams. "You start asking yourself, 'Is that one game, or are we going to play that way for a while?' I guess we'll find out Sunday."
Said sophomore All-American Joe Smith, who led Maryland with 17 points and six rebounds, "We let them set the tempo."
With the loss and last night's North Carolina win, Maryland (19-5) dropped a game behind the first-place Tar Heels in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Terps are tied with Virginia at 9-3. The second-ranked Tar Heels play the No. 16 Cavaliers on Sunday in Charlottesville.
"Somebody else is going to get some losses in the next week, we're not the only one," said Williams.
The Terps, meanwhile, play their final nonconference regular-season game Sunday in San Antonio against Cincinnati at the Alamodome. The game is part of the 7-Up Shootout doubleheader, with Temple and Texas playing in the second game.
NTC Asked if he still liked playing a potentially tough nonleague game in the middle of the ACC season, Williams said, "It seemed like a good idea when we scheduled it. I'd rather be playing than having a week off. We'll get on a plane and go play."
For the Terps' sake, hopefully better than they did at Wake Forest. A lot better.