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Maryland-Wake Forest preview: Terrapins say 'We don't have a lot of margin for error'

By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 5, 2011; 12:45 AM

It's an emotionally taxing ride that coaches go on over the course of a college basketball season - brooding over each loss, seldom pausing to celebrate a victory and, regardless of the outcome, getting pumped up anew for whatever game is next on the schedule.

Gary Williams has done it now for 33 years. And he expects his Maryland players to do the same.

"A loss has to hurt more than a win feels good - if you're a good player," Williams said Friday, amid a stretch that offered yet another window on that cycle. "At the same time, we'll be ready to play [the next game]. That's part of the process of losing."

Less than 72 hours after an 18-point loss to Duke on their home court, the Maryland Terrapins (14-8, 4-4 ACC) are trying to rebound for Saturday's 1 p.m. game against Wake Forest.

Wednesday's loss - the Terps' largest margin of defeat since Comcast Center opened - represented a major blow. Because No. 23 North Carolina is the only ranked team remaining on the Terrapins' schedule, they are almost out of chances to earn a quality win in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee. That, in turn, means the Terps' postseason prospects hang on a near-perfect finish in the nine games that remain as well as a deep run in the ACC tournament.

"We don't have a lot of margin for error," conceded senior forward Dino Gregory, a co-captain of the team.

Added senior guard Adrian Bowie: "We have to win all our [remaining] games. We've lost too many games as it is."

Wake Forest (8-14, 1-6) shouldn't present a tremendous challenge. The Demon Deacons are in sole possession of 12th in the 12-team ACC standings and have lost four of their last five, getting their lone victory in conference play at Virginia on Jan. 29.

Maryland earned its first conference victory against Wake after it started 0-2 in league play, with losses to Boston College at home and Duke on the road.

When the teams met in Winston-Salem on Jan. 12, the Terps rolled to a 74-55 victory behind Cliff Tucker's game-high 21 points and a stout defensive effort that limited the Deacons to 31.7 percent shooting from the field.

On Saturday, Wake will have a new player on the floor - freshman point guard Tony Chennault, who missed 17 games with a broken foot. Chennault has come off the bench in the last four games, freeing C.J. Harris to shoot more, making the offensively challenged Deacons slightly more of a threat.

Meantime, Maryland's own offensive struggles continue. The Terps have searched all season for a clutch shooter to complement sophomore center Jordan Williams, who has carried the team with an NCAA-leading 19 double-doubles.

Some nights, Tucker has shot beautifully, forcing opposing defenses to extend, which frees up Williams inside. Other nights, Bowie has had the hot hand. Then there have been games, like Wednesday's 80-62 loss to Duke, in which no one has shot well enough to demand defenders' attention.

Freshman point guards Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard, who played 19 minutes each against Duke, were a combined 1 of 7 from the field, finishing with two points, six assists and two turnovers between them. Tucker, who scored 14 in the Terps' Jan. 9 loss at Duke, was held to seven points Wednesday.

Such inconsistency has been the Terps' greatest handicap.

Each time he reviews videotape, Gary Williams sees things he doesn't like. But what's important, he said, is for players and coaches alike to focus on what's ahead rather than on the missed opportunities in the rearview mirror.

"You prepare for the next game, because that's the most important game," Williams said. "I can't do anything about the Duke game. But I can really get prepared for the Wake Forest game."

To that end, the coach is still tinkering with strategy and adding plays that he hopes will make it easier for players to get high-percentage shots.

"It's never too late [for a team] to hit it," Williams said. "That still might happen."

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