It’s a “must win” game is an overused cliché. But, as Bob “hoops” Haynie says on his show from time to time, I am the “cliché king”. After back to back ugly losses, the Terps needed to go on the road to Winston Salem, NC and steal a win from a young, but improving Wake Forest team. That’s easier said than done, because going into the game Wake had a lofty 14-1 home record this season.
Maryland 18-11 (8-6 tie-4th place ACC) led for almost the entire contest, but a 9 minute field goal drought at the end of the game kept Wake Forest in the hunt. Thankfully, Wake couldn’t seem to make a basket either, and combined with poor free throw shooting down the stretch, the Demon Deacons were never able to catch the Terps.
Maryland’s 74-70 win was far from a work of art, but it was a “w” which is all that really matters. James Gist had a strong first half, draining three 3-pointers on his way to a career high 31 points (and 11 boards).
Once again Greivis Vasquez showed why he’s a gamer. He and Gist combined for 32 of Maryland’s 40 first half points (80%). His one man 7-0 second half run broke a 49-49 tie, mostly at the expense of Wake’s Jeff Teague who couldn’t guard him in the post, and put the Terps ahead for good.
Bambale “boom” Osby had a rare off night with zero points and four rebounds. Landon Milbourne played with foul trouble most of the game, picking up his fourth foul at the 17:35 mark of the second half, before fouling out in the game’s final minutes.
No one is happier that February is over than Eric Hayes, who flat out had a bad month. He made a few shots against Wake, but continues to be a step slow on defense and is not making plays when he handles the ball. His 11 points were helpful, but zero assists and six turnovers (Maryland had 20 total) is a painful stat line.
It was nice to see the Terps bench contribute, at least on defense. Jerome Burney has come out of the dog house to give the frontcourt a breather, block some shots and rebound. He won’t give you much offensively, but is it any less than you get from Shane Walker, Dave Neal and Braxton Dupree?
Adrian Bowie saw increased minutes against Wake’s quick PG Ishmael Smith, and Cliff Tucker had a solid game filling in for a foul-plagued Milbourne.
Wake Forest 16-10 (6-7 tie-5th place ACC) is the youngest team in the ACC (Maryland is second) with zero upperclassmen in their starting five. Their backcourt of Smith, Jeff Teague (who had a rough game, missing several chip shots that could have helped Wake win the game) and L.D. Williams are talented, quick and athletic. Freshman forward James Johnson (24 points, 15 rebounds) is an absolute beast. They will be joined next year by three very good frontcourt players, the shortest of whom is 6’8”. Wake can be “scary good” next year.
The Terps have a tough test at home on Sunday against Clemson 20-7 (8-5 3rd place ACC), which also has a very good starting five. Their front court of James Mayes and Trevor Booker is similar to Gist and Osby. Guard KC Rivers is streaky and can shoot the Tigers in or out of a game. Senior guard Cliff Hammonds has been a thorn in the Terps side for four years. Clemson’s Achilles heel has been foul shooting and a maddening propensity to fall apart in the final four minutes of games.
Seniors James Gist, “Boom” Osby and Jason McAlpin will be honored before the “Senior Day” game on Sunday. If you’re heading to Comcast Center, get there early and check it out.