WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Last week they proved vulnerable. Yesterday, they proved beatable.
What nearly happened here Wednesday night against Virginia after falling behind by nine points in the second half finally happened this season for second-ranked Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons lost to 11th-ranked Maryland and in the process showed weaknesses they hadn't demonstrated since last year's season-ending loss to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.
"The only team that has pressed us so much in the past was Kentucky, and we lost both times we've played them," Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said after Maryland had stunned the Demon Deacons, 54-51, at Lawrence Joel Coliseum. "They don't press the same way that Kentucky was, but we didn't do a good job handling it."
It was Maryland's three-quarter-court pressure that helped the Terrapins jump out to an astounding 27-8 lead to start the game. And it was the pressure Maryland continued to put on Wake Forest's perimeter players that helped overcome a 16-0 run to start the second half that had given the Demon Deacons a 36-32 lead.
Wake Forest's guards combined to shoot four of 27 from the field, including three of 20 (2-for-12 on threes) by starters Tony Rutland and Jerry Braswell.
Aside from All-America center Tim Duncan, who finished eight of 13 from the field, the Demon Deacons were nine of 40. That from the ACC leader in both field-goal percentage (.498) and three-point percentage (.397).
"At some point, you have to say, 'It's not going to be my day,' " Odom said of his team's guard-awful performance that included missing 16 of 19 three-point attempts (Duncan also missed his only three). "I said to them, 'We need to go inside.' We were crazy not to take advantage of what we had there."
Said junior guard Rutland, who missed nine of 10 shots (eight of nine threes) and committed six turnovers: "The shots were there. They just didn't fall."
What Wake Forest had inside wasn't only Duncan, who is too selfless at times, but also senior forward Ricky Peral. At 6 feet 10 and possessing the wing span of a 7-footer, Peral also got caught up in trying to bury the Terrapins with threes after the Demon Deacons had taken the lead.
He missed two and Duncan missed one -- the only shot the center took in eight minutes as Wake scored on only four of its next 24 possessions after taking a four-point lead.
"We tried to win too fast," said Peral, alluding to some of the quick threes he and his teammates hoisted. "And they got back in the game. They're a great team."
Asked if his team was looking past Maryland toward Thursday's game against third-ranked Clemson at Littlejohn Coliseum, Duncan said: "I thought we were prepared. I just thought we didn't hit the shots we've hit all year. You've got to give them credit. They're a very scrappy team and did what they needed to do to win."
Duncan dismissed the notion that yesterday's defeat will take the pressure off the Demon Deacons. It's difficult to take off the pressure when there was no pressure to start, Duncan said.
"There's no focus on trying to win every game, to running the table [in the ACC]," he said. "We're not trying to win every game, every practice."
But Odom saw something different, something he hadn't seen from his team all season.
"I thought we showed anxiety and frustration," said Odom. "I thought we rushed into some shots. I thought we were ready to play, but we didn't play well. Maryland had a lot to do with that."
That was the only pressure on the Demon Deacons yesterday, but it was certainly enough to turn them from vulnerable to beatable.
NOTE: Freshman LeRon Cephas, who recently met NCAA academic requirements, was on the bench for the first time. Cephas (6-8, 220 pounds) was in street clothes and his playing status has yet to be determined.
Pub Date: 1/20/97