WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- When they boarded a plane in North Carolina three days earlier, just hours removed from a disastrous 34-point loss to the No. 3 Tar Heels, the Maryland Terrapins were humbled, embarrassed, and even a little shell-shocked.
It's pretty likely that some of those feelings lingered on the Terps' trip back to College Park this morning.
With most of their starters again falling flat against one of the nation's elite teams and an Atlantic Coast Conference foe, and with their top scorer playing just nine minutes, the Terps were handled last night by fourth-ranked Wake Forest, 81-66, before 14,655 at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
Junior guard Justin Gray hit six of nine three-pointers and led the Demon Deacons with 25 points, 16 coming in the decisive first half, as he sparked a 16-3 half-ending run that helped put away the Terps (9-4, 1-2) long before the final buzzer.
Wake Forest (14-1, 3-0 ACC) also got 12 points and 10 rebounds from center Eric Williams, and 14 points from sophomore point guard Chris Paul.
"We're struggling right now," said Terps coach Gary Williams, who kept junior point guard John Gilchrist out of the starting lineup because of an academic issue and then sat him for the second half because he didn't feel Gilchrist (back and wrist) was healthy enough to be a key contributor.
"We're just not letting it go. We're holding back a little. We are not playing with the intensity level necessary for us to be successful against tough competition."
Junior forward Nik Caner-Medley scored 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting and was one of the few bright spots for the Terps, who were hampered again by some of the same problems that contributed to a 109-75 thumping by Carolina on Saturday.
Maryland made just one of 14 three-pointers, its lone make coming when reserve Mike Jones (nine points) hit one with less than five minutes left. The Terps are a combined 7-for-54 in three ACC games.
The Terps were again outrebounded badly, 51-36, and after entering the game shooting under 72 percent from the free-throw line, Maryland managed only a 7-for-16 effort last night.
"We're not a good shooting team right now," Williams said.
Added junior forward Travis Garrison: "When things like [poor shooting] are happening, you have to look at the way we run our offense, and you have to look at yourself. Are you putting effort in after practice? Are you working on your shot?"
Chris McCray shot just 1-for-7 last night after a 3-for-17 effort against Carolina. sophomore center Ekene Ibekwe was 4-for-11 and finished in single digits in points for the fifth time in nine games.
Losing on the road is becoming too familiar of a feeling for the Terps, who were beaten by North Carolina, 109-75, on Saturday. In that game, the Tar Heels staged a 29-5 run spanning halftime and went on to deliver Maryland its worst loss in nearly five seasons.
This time, the Demon Deacons turned a legitimately tight game into a blowout, finishing the first half on a 16-3 spurt for a 47-26 halftime lead. Then, they scored the first nine points of the second half for a 55-26 advantage, all while the Terps' leading scorer sat on the bench and watched the painful proceedings.
Point guard John Gilchrist was demoted from the starting lineup in favor of D.J. Strawberry because Gilchrist missed an academic assignment.
Gilchrist, who has been playing with a back injury, first entered the game at the 13:44 mark, but he never appeared to be his fiery self. He played just nine minutes in the first half and sat out the second half.
Williams blamed injuries more than schoolwork.
Gilchrist "had a bad back and he had a wrist problem," Williams said. "I didn't feel like he could go at full speed. I didn't feel like he could move well enough tonight."
Gilchrist did perk up significantly on the bench in rooting on his teammates. Sterling Ledbetter played most of the second-half point guard minutes and did a solid job, engineering a modest 8-0 run to cut the Demon Deacons' lead to 57-34.
At that point, Maryland's lineup on the floor was Ledbetter, Jones, Will Bowers and starters McCray and Ibekwe. Williams took some solace in that his team on the floor played hard to the very end and even managed to cut into Wake's comfortable lead.
Gilchrist, for one, wasn't that impressed by the No. 4 team in the country.
"Personally I felt like tonight those guys really weren't that good," he said. "I only can see it through my eyes. I felt we should have won."
Jones hit a three-pointer to trim Wake Forest's advantage to 69-55 with just under five minutes to play. It was the Terps' first successful three-pointer after they missed their first 13. And this effort came after Maryland made just two of 22 three-pointers against North Carolina.
But the Terps never got any closer. Gray answered Jones' three with a three-pointer of his own and Wake Forest was able to empty its bench.
Team W L Pct. W L Pct.
Wake Forest 3 0 1.000 14 1 .933
North Carolina 2 0 1.000 13 1 .929
Georgia Tech 2 0 1.000 11 2 .846
Duke 1 0 1.000 11 0 1.000
Miami 1 1 .500 10 3 .750
Florida State 1 1 .500 9 6 .600
Maryland 1 2 .333 9 4 .692
N.C. State 0 1 .000 10 4 .714
Virginia 0 2 .000 9 3 .750
Clemson 0 2 .000 9 5 .643
Virginia Tech 0 2 .000 6 6 .500
No. 4 Wake Forest 81, Maryland 66
No. 8 Georgia Tech at No. 3 N. Carolina, 7 p.m.
Clemson at Florida State, 7 p.m.
Bethune-Cookman at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.
Miami at Virginia, 7:30 p.m.
No. 5 Duke at N.C. State, 7 p.m.