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Maryland clears Forest

December 04, 1998|By BOB PARASILITI

Maryland clears Forest

Terps make everything, allow nothing vs. Wake

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The way the University of Maryland basketball team played defense, it was fitting the Terrapins were playing Wake Forest.

That's because after the first eight minutes of the game, the Demon Deacons were attending their own wake and couldn't hit a basket through the forest of Maryland defenders.

[cont. from sports page]

Maryland gave the Atlantic Coast Conference its first glimpse of why it is the second-ranked team in the nation with a press that flattened every wrinkle Wake Forest could offer Thursday in a 91-69 victory before another sellout crowd of 14,500 at Cole Field House.

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Maryland led 12-2 after the first 2 1/2 minutes of play and used another wave of defense to take a 32-10 advantage after eight minutes.

It was all over but the shouting - or groaning if you were Wake Forest - from there.

"We wanted to make a statement to the ACC with our defense," Maryland guard Steve Francis said. "We played hard on defense for the first 20 minutes. In the first 10 minutes, we put heavy pressure on them that came in waves and waves and waves. I think it got to them."

With the early vise-like pressure, Maryland's waves of defense eroded Wake's flow and washed the Demon Deacons away before they knew what hit them.

Wake tried to dribble through Maryland's pressure, but the Deacons' offense became a drive-thru for Maryland on the way to the basket.

The 23-point victory was Maryland's largest in the ACC since the Terps (8-0) blasted Wake by 23 in February 1994.

"Our defense is what keys us right now," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "The guys did a good job getting mentally ready to play. You want to win your home ACC games. It was a good win, but there are 15 more, so we'll see."

Wake tried to crawl back into the game as the pace slowed down, but never made a serious threat.

"If we keep playing our defense, we won't have to worrry about the offense," said center Obinna Ekezie, who led Maryland with 19 points. "It will come."

The Terps pushed out to a 85-49 lead - their biggest of the game - with 6:55 remaining before Williams cleared the bench.

Wake scored 16 straight points against the Terps' reserves to make the game look semi-respectable.

Maryland finished with five players in double figures as Laron Profit scored 16 and Terence Morris had 15.

The Terps shut down Wake's leading scorer Robert O'Kelley (16.4 points) with eight points, on 1 of 9 shooting and 5 of 8 from the foul line.

"They have a team that's hard to imagine that they can get better, but I'm sure Gary is going to drive them to the point where they arrive to get better," Odom said.

Wake (6-2, 0-1) held a 3-2 lead after Joseph Amonett hit a 3-pointer at the 19:03 mark. After that, Maryland stole the ball five straight times and converted the blitz into a 10-0 run and a 12-3 advantage. After Wake crawled to within 15-8, Maryland unleashed another flurry of six steals to produce a 17-2 onslaught, led by Francis with seven of his 18 points.

"I don't know if they are the best basketball team in the country ... I don't know if they are the best basketball team in this league or not," Wake coach Dave Odom said. "I don't think it's fair to put that label on them at this stage. but I do think - and I think I can speak from experience - it is certainly the beszt basketball team that Gary has had since he's been here."

Maryland did very little to prove Odom wrong.

The Terps hit their first 14 shots en route to 71.4 percent shooting in the first half (20 of 26).

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