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Terps land cautiously in poll vault Maryland savors leap to No. 11, but it knows Nos. 3, 2 are looming; Clemson, Wake 7-0 in ACC; 'We have other things to think about' now

The bandwagon is growing.

The ranking is rising.

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Yesterday it took the Maryland Terrapins to No. 11 in the country in the Associated Press poll, up a whopping eight spots from last week. It was the biggest jump of any team in last week's Top 25.

That's the good news. The other news -- good or bad depending on your perspective -- is that the two ACC teams Maryland (14-1) plays next are No. 3 Clemson and No. 2 Wake Forest.

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"Playing in a league like the ACC is good in that the prestige of the league helps bring you up and get you recognition," Maryland coach Gary Williams said last night after practice.

"But you still have to go out and win games."

Coming off a week in which they beat then 13th-ranked North Carolina and N.C. State on the road, the Terrapins meet the Tigers tomorrow night at Cole Field House before going to Winston-Salem, N.C., Sunday to face the Demon Deacons.

Maryland is tied with Wake Forest, the preseason favorite to win the ACC, at 4-0. Clemson, which was picked to finish third but received 14 first-place votes, is 3-0. The Terrapins, you might remember, were selected eighth in the preseason poll. That's in the league, not the country.

"It's something they [the players] should enjoy, but you don't have a chance to dwell on it," Williams said of his team's recent victories on Tobacco Road. "Obviously we have other things to think about this week."

Williams couldn't recall one of his previous teams in 18 Division I seasons ever playing consecutive games against such highly ranked opponents. If it happened, it would have occurred during the 1984-85 season when Williams was coaching Boston College in the Big East.

That was the year the Big East sent three teams to the Final Four -- eventual national champion Villanova, defending national champion Georgetown and St. John's -- with Williams' BC team reaching the Sweet 16.

"I remember playing St. John's at their place when they were No. 2 and had a chance to be No. 1 because somebody lost," said Williams. "We beat them."

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While they likely will be considered underdogs in each of their next two games, the Terrapins have a history of beating higher-ranked teams at home. Williams likes the attitude of this year's team, which has matched school records for best overall start to a season and best start in the ACC.

"We have a quiet confidence," he said. "But we're not scared to go out and play anybody."

That much was evident last week, first when the Terrapins overcame a 22-point lead Wednesday with 14: 24 remaining against North Carolina and beat the Tar Heels, 85-75; then, four days later, when Maryland played well down the stretch to hold off the Wolfpack, 68-59.

The victory against North Carolina, which lost Saturday at Virginia to drop to 0-3 in the ACC for the first time in school history, helped Maryland get most of its votes. The win at Reynolds Coliseum on Sunday only reinforced the feeling that the Terps are for real.

"We're not a team that looks really great when it comes onto the floor because of its size," said Williams. "But we also have some pretty good players."

Maryland will add another player to its roster this week, but the status of freshman LaRon Cephas has yet to be decided. Cephas, who recently met his NCAA academic requirements while attending a junior college in Delaware, is expected to enroll at Maryland sometime this week.

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According to a statement released yesterday, Cephas will begin practicing "sometime in the near future."

The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward was considered the best player in Maryland's recruiting class last spring. Because most of his playing time would come at power forward, a position shared by senior Keith Booth and junior Rodney Elliott, it seems likely that Cephas will redshirt.

"What I like is that he'll be able to practice with us and learn the system, so when he comes in next year he won't be starting from scratch," said Williams. "I just hope we can stay healthy."

Fast forward

The Maryland Terrapins made the biggest jump in this week's Associated Press poll. A look at the major changes in this week's rankings:

No. .. .. ..School .. .. .. ... ..Change

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11. .. .. ..Maryland .. .. .. .. .. .+8

20. .. .. ..Mississippi .. .. .. .. ..+7

12. .. .. ..New Mexico .. .. .. .. .. +6

15. .. .. ..Stanford .. .. .. .. .. ..+6

7. .. .. ...Minnesota .. .. .. .. . ..+4

10. .. .. ..Louisville .. .. .. .. ...+4

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19. .. .. ..Boston College .. .. .. ..+4

22. .. .. ..North Carolina .. .. .. ..-9

16. .. .. ..Villanova .. .. .. .. .. .-8

24. .. .. ..Oregon .. .. .. .. .. .. .-7

25. .. .. ..Texas Tech .. .. .. .. ...-5

8. .. .. ...Iowa State .. .. .. .. ...-4

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Pub Date: 1/14/97


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