By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 13, 2011; 12:56 AM
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - A banner of Wake Forest's beloved former basketball coach, the late Skip Prosser, hangs inside Joel Coliseum alongside banners of players who brought athletic glory to the ACC's smallest school - Tim Duncan, Rodney Rogers and Josh Howard among them.
But for the most part this season, those banners have served as reminders of how far the Demon Deacons have fallen, with a new coach struggling to reinvent a squad that's laden with freshmen and lacking chemistry and confidence.
So it should have been a simple proposition for Maryland to collect its first ACC victory of the season Wednesday at Wake Forest - particularly after the grit the Terrapins showed in nearly toppling top-ranked Duke on Sunday.
It wasn't. Maryland slogged through a sub-par first half marked by poor shooting and lax rebounding before pulling away for a 74-55 victory.
Deacons fans started streaming to the exits with nearly seven minutes remaining once the Terps took charge with a 15-0 run to go up, 61-40.
For Maryland (11-5, 1-2) the victory was sorely needed, its first in ACC play. And it was well-timed, with the Terps due to face their second top-10 opponent of the week on Saturday, when they travel to Philadelphia to take on No. 7 Villanova (15-1).
But for stretches in the early going, it felt more like a loss.
The Terps shot 38 percent against Wake, which ranks last in the ACC in defense. They didn't attack the boards until the second half, finishing with a 52-42 rebounding edge against the ACC's most anemic rebounders. And their free-throw shooting again let them down (51.5 percent).
For a second consecutive game, senior Cliff Tucker came off the bench to provide offense where there was little. Tucker led all players with 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Afterward, Coach Gary Williams didn't rule out the possibility that Tucker would return to the starting lineup.
Jordan Williams kept his streak of double-doubles alive (now at 10), with a 13-point, 15-rebound performance despite a 2-of-13 shooting night from the field that left him wondering why reporters wanted to talk to him afterward.
"But where I slacked today, I made up for getting rebounds and helping on defense," the sophomore center said. "You do one thing bad, you gotta do another thing good."
It was a measure of just how far Wake Forest (7-10, 0-2) has to go that Maryland led at the half, 36-22, despite its rocky start.
The Terps created plenty of scoring opportunities, but hardly anyone could convert. Tucker hit back-to-back baskets to put Maryland up, 22-13. Wake replied, pulling within four as Maryland went through a drought on the foul line.
Tucker scored seven points for Maryland as the half wound down to help extend the Terps' lead from four to 14. Still, Wake won the first-half battle of the boards, 21-18.
"We have to do a better job on the glass," Coach Williams said afterward. "We didn't rebound well in the first half. Sometimes you just have to play your way through things."
Jordan Williams, blanketed by Wake's 7-foot center Carson Desrosiers, managed just five points and four rebounds in the period.
The relatively lifeless arena of 10,307 awoke when Wake pulled within six, 42-36, with 14 minutes 39 seconds to play on a layup by former Georgetown forward Nikita Mescheriakov (seven points).
Dino Gregory hit a tough shot to spur the critical Maryland run. With Pe'Shon Howard taking over point guard duties from Terrell Stoglin, who had a second consecutive rough shooting night (1 of 9), Maryland's offense seemed to click better.
Howard dished out five assists in 23 minutes without a turnover and added four rebounds and three steals.
Meantime, the Deacons squandered one possession after another, turning the ball over 18 times in all. Those turnovers led to 24 Maryland points.