Mike Wise on Maryland's Loss to Wake Forest in Men's College Basketball

By Mike Wise
Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Even after 35 minutes of work went for naught, it's not hard to see what's happening at Maryland. Gary Williams is falling hard for a team he has suddenly coaxed into overachievers.

Even after Wake Forest momentarily wobbled the Terrapins' bid to eke an NCAA tournament berth out of this zany, uneven year -- which is still fluctuating somewhere between maddening and magical -- the head of the program for the last 20 years has already found solace in getting this group of kids to buy in before the season expired.

They might not have given him a birthday victory late last night, about an hour before he turned 64 today. But this Maryland team has already vindicated his teaching amid the tumult. They put him on another March thrill ride, one that had him talking last night about his first, in 1994, when Joe Smith and Keith Booth were freshmen and the Terrapins were probation-free, again eligible for Selection Sunday.

"This is what it's about: all you can do as a coach is ask them to give what they have -- and this group has done that," Williams said after these Terrapins fell to the 10th-ranked team in the country, 65-63.

"It's never because of effort with them. As a coach, that's what you live for."

This is where we are in College Park: People clad in red are worried sick when Dave Neal picks up two early fouls. Dave Neal!?!

Eric Hayes is throwing outlet passes as if he played 30 years ago at Indiana State.

And Greivis Vasquez and his teammates were again hanging with a bigger, faster and enormously talented Wake Forest team, a squad with three NBA-ready players.

Jeff Teague, Al-Farouq Aminu and James Johnson eventually sent the Comcast Center congregation home deflated, the Terrapins succumbing in another quality college basketball game that didn't exactly decimate Maryland's tourney chances.

The good news for Gary's guys: Long-shot hopefuls such as Georgetown, Cincinnati and Kansas State all lost, putting them further on the fringe.

The bad news for Tortoise Nation: They have to beat Virginia on Saturday in their remaining regular season game and probably win at least one ACC tournament game to complete a tournament resuscitation that began three weeks ago.

And Maryland won't be in this very loud din, playing before its masses, some of whom got a little unruly at the end of a game in which they had no reason to blame the officiating.

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