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 safe to say similar feelings accompanied the Terps on their trip back from Winston-Salem early this morning.
Again falling flat against one of the nation's elite teams and an Atlantic Coast Conference foe, the Terps were handled last night by fourth-ranked Wake Forest, 81-66, at the Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
Junior guard Justin Gray led the Demon Deacons with 25 points, 16 coming in the decisive first half. He hit six of nine three-pointers. Eric Williams added 10 points and 12 rebounds for Wake Forest (14-1, 3-0 ACC).
Nik Caner-Medley led Maryland (9-4, 1-2) with 21 points to go along with six rebounds, but it wasn't close to enough for the Terps, who shot just 7-for-16 from the foul line, one of a number of statistics that led to a lopsided loss.
"We're not a good shooting team right now," said coach Gary Williams, whose Terps missed 13 of 14 three-pointers. "Guys that we expected to be good shooters are not shooting well."
"I think our main problem is being more consistent running our offense, being more consistent playing great defense," Caner-Medley said.
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, Mike Jones, Will Bowers and starters Chris McCray and Ekene 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.
"Tonight I didn't think those guys were that good," he said. "I feel we should have won the game. I always feel we should win the game."
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.Williams, cognizant of his team's inability to keep up with the Tar Heels on Saturday, suggested that the Terps' might slow it down against Wake.
And Maryland was more deliberate at the start, choosing to pound the ball inside to Ibekwe, Travis Garrison or James Gist. The philosophy kept the Terps in the game early as Gist cut the Deacons' lead to 16-14 with a layup at the 11:20 mark.
But the Terps, who were torched by a flurry of Tar Heels layups and open three-pointers, couldn't locate Gray, an All-ACC first-team selection who entered the game fifth in the ACC, averaging 17.2 points a game.
Often getting a step on Strawberry, the Terps' best on-ball defender, Gray scored 10 points in 1:36 as the Demon Deacons took a 30-20 lead 8:15 left before halftime. At that point, Gray already had 16 points and four three-pointers.
The Terps, who became the first ACC team to play consecutive road games against top five opponents since 1988, face a tough Temple team on Saturday at the Comcast Center in their last non-league game of the regular season. Then they host Virginia (Wednesday) and North Carolina State (Sunday) in games that are crucial for a team that is still searching to find its form from late last season.
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.