Dream fading

COLLEGE PARK — COLLEGE PARK -Fighting to remain in the NCAA tournament conversation, Maryland came up short last night in more ways than one.

The Terrapins fell short on the scoreboard, losing, 65-63, to 10th-ranked Wake Forest despite a career-high 19 points by Dave Neal, honored before the game on Senior Night.


The Terps were short in another way, too - in stature.

Despite five three-pointers by Neal, Maryland could not overcome Wake Forest's size advantage.


Playing against much taller inside players, Maryland repeatedly surrendered second shots. Neal, who is listed at 6 feet 7, was dwarfed by 7-footer Chas McFarland, 6-11 Tony Woods, 6-9 James Johnson and 6-9 Al-Farouq Aminu.

Maryland (18-11, 7-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) surrendered 19 offensive rebounds - six each by Johnson and Aminu - and allowed 20 second-chance points.

Wake's second and third chances offset an energetic performance by the Terps, particularly in the first half.

"We got a little tired" in the second half, said Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez, who scored 11 points in the first half and five in the second.

Said Maryland coach Gary Williams: "The second half we just couldn't move as well as we did the first half. Their zone was big. Every time we got it in there, it just seemed they swatted it away. We're not the biggest team this year."

Wake Forest (23-5, 10-5) used a 1-3-1 zone that Neal said "kind of got us out of the groove we were in. It kind of caught us off guard."

The Demon Deacons, who trailed by as many as 11, took their first lead of the half when Ishmael Smith fed Johnson for a breakaway dunk that made it 38-37 with 15:25 left. Aminu's three-pointer made it 41-37.

But then Neal stepped up.


Maryland's only senior, who says he is 6-6 "on a good day," hit consecutive three-pointers. The second one put Maryland ahead 52-48.

Neal had mixed emotions afterward.

Before the game, fans serenaded Neal - in his last regular-season game at home - with chants of "Dave Neal."

Students held banners that said: "I ask you to Neal" and "Dave Neal: King of Comcastle."

Neal responded with a big game, but said: "I would definitely give up how I played tonight in exchange for a win."

Wake Forest, a potent scoring team that had been held to 25 first-half points, made a final push to secure the win.


Wake retook the lead on Smith's three to make it 55-54. Jeff Teague followed with a slam-dunk to make 57-54, and the Deacons didn't trail after that. Neal gave Maryland a final chance with a tip-in to cut Wake Forest's lead to 59-58 in the final minutes. But Johnson followed with a tip-in of his own to make it 61-58, and Wake Forest held off the Terps with foul shots in the final 35 seconds.

The loss leaves the Terps in an uncertain position in their push for an NCAA tournament bid. Maryland will certainly need a win at Virginia on Saturday - and might need to win a game or two in the ACC tournament.

Maryland finished 8-8 in the ACC last season and missed the tournament.

But Williams said this season's team is different. "The way we work, the way we go after things - these guys have had my back all year," the coach said. "They've been tremendous. And I'm going to have their back."

MARYLAND (18-11, 7-8) @ VIRGINIA (9-17, 3-12) Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

TV: Chs. 2, 7


Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM