On rebound, Terps look to poke 'Pack

COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK - Will they continue to play up to their potential?

The Maryland Terrapins talk as if they learned a valuable lesson while losing five out of six games. Tomorrow night against visiting North Carolina State, they will try to string together their first winning streak in a month.


It helps that No. 17 Maryland is coming off its most inspired effort of an up-and-down season. Saturday's 73-57 road knockout of No. 23 Wake Forest, marking only their second victory over a ranked opponent, could be the jump-start the Terps need, as they try to gather momentum for the postseason.

"We had to come out fighting like dogs [against Wake]," said center Lonny Baxter, who set the table for the Terps' domination by controlling the inside and leading the team with 19 points and 14 rebounds.


"We know how tough we are. It's just a matter of playing tough every night. We feel like we're going to do that the rest of the way."

The Terps were tough and resourceful at Lawrence Joel Coliseum, where they took a 12-point first-half lead, weathered a bad stretch late in the half, then fell behind briefly in the second half before outclassing the Demon Deacons.

All of the poise that had been missing in recent weeks was on display in abundance in Winston-Salem. Maryland rarely was caught flat-footed on defense. The Terps ran their offense with a consistent game plan, and did it with unselfishness and heightened shot-clock awareness. They kept their ill-advised shots to a minimum.

First, the defensive adjustments. With 12 minutes left in the contest, Juan Dixon and Byron Mouton - re-inserted into the starting lineup after getting benched before Wednesday's shocking upset loss to visiting Florida State - were on the bench with four fouls apiece.

That forced Terps coach Gary Williams to move Terence Morris to small forward and stay with a 3-2 zone defense, with the long-armed Morris cutting off passing lanes and bothering three-point shooters up top.

The zone and its accompanying big lineup flustered Wake inside and outside, as the Demon Deacons shot just 31.5 percent overall and made only two of 11 three-point shots in the second half. Maryland also dominated the boards all day, grabbing 45 rebounds to Wake Forest's 30.

The Demon Deacons' 25 second-half points marked the fewest the Terps have allowed in a half this year.

"I was really pleased with our man-to-man [defense]. When we went zone, we played that equally well," Williams said. "If you can do that, you're probably going to win."


Shooting the ball is equally helpful, as was Maryland's blistering 57.1 percent success rate in the second half. And when point guard Steve Blake runs the show as efficiently as he did on Saturday, Maryland usually is in a position to win.

Blake, who failed to take a shot in the first half, provided a huge lift with 10 points after that. He made two three-pointers and drove by Robert O'Kelley for a layup that fueled the rout. He dribbled out of trouble smartly and restarted plays. His entry passes to Baxter were steady and true. He kept the half-court offense humming, even though his four assists look modest.

Seven players had at least two assists.

"We lead the ACC in assists. We went back to playing that way," Williams said. "The interior passes from Mike [Mardesich], Chris [Wilcox] and Tahj [Holden] were incredible. Every time Lonny got double-teamed, the ball came back out. It might not have been an assist, but it led to a lot of assists. When you make the extra pass, it looks patient."

With the exception of a sloppy stretch late in the first half - the Terps had six turnovers and missed seven of nine shots in the final nine minutes - Maryland took great care of the ball.

The most glaring trouble spot was another quiet game from Morris, who scored only six points in 32 minutes and was scoreless with just two rebounds in the second half. Morris has scored 35 points in his last four games and is shooting 29.3 percent over that stretch.


It didn't seem to matter to the senior forward.

"We've been second-guessing ourselves. A lot of people doubted us after the Florida State game," said Morris, who admitted the Terps took the Seminoles too lightly. "A lot of teams go through things like this. I think we're mentally back into it. We've got a big win on the road. Now, we've got to build on it."

Said Holden: "Losing five out of six is tough. We have a lot of pride. It hurt a lot. But we stepped forward and kept our composure for 40 minutes. We knew what we had to do, and we came out and did it."