COLLEGE PARK -- Before No. 2 Maryland opened its Atlantic Coast Conference schedule last night, coach Gary Williams pleaded for kinder, gentler language from the fans in the student section at Cole Field House.
His Terps then beat the you-know-what out of Wake Forest.
In a performance that proved that an NBA lockout hasn't deprived the nation of breathtaking basketball, Maryland made its first 14 shots, piled up a 28-8 lead and administered a 92-69 whipping before another ravenous sellout crowd of 14,500. The outcome exorcised some Demon Deacons for the Maryland seniors, who were 0-3 against Wake at home.
"We've played eight games and it's too early to get carried away," Williams said. "I don't mind our players getting excited about being No. 2, as long as they bring the same excitement to practice. We are playing very well and very hard right now."
Williams took to the public address system before the game and asked the Maryland students to curb some profane chants, even though he said "I'm not the right guy to be talking to you about cursing." The fans weren't nearly as hard on the Demon Deacons as were his players.
In his 10 seasons as Maryland's coach, Williams has had only one other ACC win that was more lopsided, a 102-70 romp over North Carolina State during the 1993-94 season. Alas, the Terps' average margin of victory decreased, as the Demon Deacons (6-2, 0-1) used a 16-0 spurt in the closing minutes against the Maryland reserves to get that figure down to 35.4 points.
"If there's a better basketball team in the country," Wake Forest coach Dave Odom said, "I'm glad we didn't have to play them tonight."
Maryland had unanswered runs of 10, 13 and eight points in the first half. The spread got as large as 38, at 89-51 with 5: 47 left.
The ACC is supposed to be the nation's best conference and Wake Forest swept Maryland last season, so this effort might have been even more impressive than the show the Terps put on at the Puerto Rico Shootout, where they used an early 20-0 run to dispose of No. 20 Pittsburgh.
Maryland (8-0, 1-0) had its requisite five players in double figures, as junior-college transfer Steve Francis was right when he said it was just another game. He had 18 points, six assists and three steals, and his work was the starting point of a lousy shooting night for Robert O'Kelley, as last season's ACC Rookie of the Year went 1-for-9.
"We wanted to make a statement about what we can do defensively," Francis said. "That's when our transition game gets going. We came out of the gate playing tough offensively and defensively."
Maryland's starters shot 61.8 percent from the field, an outrageous 73.9 percent in the first half. The front line of center Obinna Ekezie and forwards Laron Profit and Terence Morris took 25 shots and missed only seven. Ekezie had a game-high 19 points, and the other two combined for 31.
Supersub Juan Dixon had 14 on three three-pointers. With eight assists, point guard Terrell Stokes was the ringmaster.
Profit turned his left ankle on a second-half dunk when he landed awkwardly on Wake's Darius Songaila, but said he would ice it, practice today and be ready for Sunday's game against No. 5 Stanford at the MCI Center in the BB&T; Classic.
Maryland forced turnovers on five of Wake Forest's first six possessions, and was up 32-10 in the eighth minute. That's what the spread was when the Terps finally missed a shot, with 12: 07 left in the half, when Craig Dawson contested Danny Miller's try after one of the Demon Deacons' 18 first-half turnovers.
Seven of those first 14 baskets were layups or dunks, and when they didn't get a turnover, the Terps' half-court game was purring.
Ekezie drove the baseline on a nice up-and-under move that put Maryland on top for good at 4-3. The Terps made their first three three-pointers, two by Morris. Francis elevated over Songaila on a move that was the dunk du jour, until the number the junior college transfer laid down in the fourth minute of the second half.
Wake Forest had some brief hope when it crept within 36-22, but it was promptly extinguished, as Maryland resumed the pressure and scored eight straight points.
Everything went right for the Terps in the first half, which ended with confusion over the shot and time clocks that required Odom to leave the refuge of his locker room.
After an inadvertent horn or whistle on a three by Profit that ended up in Maryland's hands, the officials awarded the Terps possession with 2.2 seconds left. Francis inbounded to Dixon, whose three from the left corner at the buzzer made it 54-29 and gave the Terps a .714 (20 of 28) shooting percentage for the half.
Besides Wake Forest, the only other opponent to win at Cole last season was Duke, and the No. 4 Blue Devils happen to be the Terps' next ACC opponent, Jan. 3 at Cole.
Pub Date: 12/04/98