COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Bouncing back quickly from an 18-point loss to your biggest rival is always a challenge, even when the next game is against the worst team in the conference.
Despite Gary Williams’ concern that his team would come out flat Saturday afternoon, the Terps did exactly what was expected of them as they blew out hapless Wake Forest, 91-70, at Comcast Center.
Maryland controlled the tempo throughout the afternoon, holding a double-digit lead for a large portion of the game. After the Demon Deacons narrowed the edge to 60-50 with 10:07 to play, the Terps used a 13-0 run to hammer the final nail in the coffin and improve to 5-4 in the ACC.
Jordan Williams matched a career-high 27 points and grabbed 15 rebounds for his NCAA-leading 20th double-double of the season. Adrian Bowie added 13 points and six assists and Cliff Tucker chipped in 10 points off the bench. Defensively, the Terps forced 19 turnovers, scoring 21 points off the Wake Forest miscues.
“You get knocked down [after a loss], you get up,” the Maryland coach said. “It’s no more complicated than that.”
The Terps (15-8) didn’t need much to knock down the Demon Deacons (8-15, 1-7 ACC), who fell to Maryland twice this season by a combined 40 points. Wanting to ensure his team began the game with extra energy, Williams started freshman Pe’Shon Howard to give both his team and the crowd an extra boost. Howard responded by scoring nine points and matching a career-high eight assists to just one turnover in 32 minutes of play.
His flashy — yet under control — passing overwhelmed the Demon Deacons as the Terps finished the game with a staggering 27 assists to just seven turnovers.
With the point guard position appearing convoluted for much of the season, Howard appears to have established himself at the position — at least for now. Fellow freshman Terrell Stoglin played 12 minutes, but had five assists of his own and two turnovers.
“[Howard] gives off a vibration that no matter if he makes a bad play or good play, he’s going to try really hard on the next play,” Williams said. “I see that just coaching him, I get that feeling. He can throw a ball away, but he’s not going to hang his head. He’s going to go down and play very good defense in that possession. I think fans pick up on that. They see who the tough guys are in those situations.”
Saturday’s result was exponentially better than Howard’s last start, which came against Virginia Tech on January 20. Starting in place of Terrell Stoglin (who had arrived late for a previous team function), Howard struggled against the Hokies, going 0-for-5 from the field and committing three turnovers over 19 minutes in a humbling 74-57 home loss. While Wake Forest didn’t pose much of a challenge collectively, Howard says he learned from that experience against the Hokies.
“The difference [with starting] is just the game starts off a lot faster,” Howard said. “The last start I had was the Virginia Tech game, and I don’t think I prepared myself as well. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think [Saturday] I just came out relaxed, made sure I got the team ready to play, and that was just the biggest thing. I didn’t want it to be the same result.”
Maryland did exactly what it was expected to do — and needed to do — at home against an inferior team. The Terps will now host the independent Longwood Lancers (8-17) on Wednesday in what amounts to a glorified scrimmage before the conference schedule resumes with a revenge game at Boston College on Saturday.
The Terps have plenty of work ahead if they want to paint themselves as a legitimate NCAA tournament contender, but Saturday’s win over Wake Forest was a positive step, even if nearly a foregone conclusion entering the day.
“It’s definitely a huge win,” Jordan Williams said. “Coach Williams said before the game that the best part about sports is that you get to come out and play again after a tough loss. That’s what we did today. We got a chance to play again and we came out ahead.”
NOTES: Williams earned his 664th career win on Saturday, pulling even with legendary UCLA coach John Wooden on the all-time wins list. “If you look at John Wooden, what he did was he glamorized the game. In addition to winning all those championships, he glamorized college basketball.” … Haukur Palsson scored a career-high nine points in 17 minutes. … The Terps outscored Wake Forest in the paint, 36-24, and held the rebounding edge, 39-33. … Maryland wore its white uniforms for just the second time in ACC play this season. The Terps are 0-3 wearing gold (losing to Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Duke) and 2-0 in white (Clemson and Wake Forest) in their five conference home games. … The Terps’ seven turnovers were a season low.