Two losses and no wins into the Atlantic Coast Conference basketball season, the Maryland Terrapins are sure of one thing: they are unable as yet to play a poised, smart game under pressure.
This afternoon the 13th-ranked Terrapins lost an 84-75 decision to unranked Wake Forest, a team that was able to do exactly what Maryland can't: keep its head.
Maryland, now 9-3, led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but went into one of its cold spells in the last three minutes while Wake's Rod Griffin was scoring six of his 23 points.
After a 43-43 halftime tie, Maryland led once more, at 47-46, and never again.
In the last 12 minutes, when Maryland was still in reach, at 64-58, the Terps surrendered the offensive boards to Griffin and 6-foot-11 Larry Harrison, hitting only one follow-up shot.
Griffin and Harrison got 14 rebounds in the second half, while Maryland turned the ball over 12 times and shot 40 per cent.
Wake, in the second half, got improved play from its streak-shooting guards, particularly Frank Johnson. Deacon guards made only three of 15 shots in the first half, but Johnson scored 18 of his 24 points in the second half in countless key situations.
After Wednesday's 88-78 loss to Duke, Maryland coach Lefty Driesell changed his starting lineup for his game, benching Billy Bryant and Mike Davis for Jo Jo Hunter and Larry Gibson. Gibson had 12 points in his best effort since being benched three losses ago, and Boston had his finest day. He hit a career high 25 points.
But Boston fouled out with 2:45 left and Maryland trailing, 75-68.
"I don't think the foul trouble made any difference, really," said Driesell. "We just didn't play well.
"Today Wake was a better team, just like Duke was a better team a few days ago. (The Maryland) team's been a big disappointment so far. We've played very poorly.
"We played well today in the first half, then we let our lead get away from us and it seemed to go downhill the rest of the way.
"Maybe I'm substituting too much. Maybe I'm not substituting enough. Maybe I should pick five guys and stick with them. I'm not ready to give up on this group yet.
"Obviously we have to do something, and something will be done. In the last two games, we've played our 'Z' defense, Lou-Z.
"Right now I'd just like to go home and go to sleep."
A stretch that typified that game came late in the first half, when Maryland led, 39-31. Johnson sank two foul shots, then Maryland turned the ball over at midcourt and Griffin followed up his own missed shot to bring the Deacons, now 8-3, to 39-35 with 2:27 left in the half.
Hunter missed a medium-ranged shot and Wake rebounded for a fast-break Griffin dunk, making it 39-37.
Hunter put a beautiful pump-fake on Harrison for a basket, but John Hendler got the points right back, hitting from underneath.
Davis then missed the first one-and-one foul shots and, typical of Maryland's drowsiness on the boards, Harrison got the rebound.
Griffin eased a shot in from 18 feet for 41-41 tie. Hunter put the moves on Harrison again for a 43-41 lead and Maryland had a chance to fatten it with Davis shooting one-and-one.
Davis again missed the first free throw, Leroy McDonald rebounded for Wake and Johnson was good from the corner for a 43-43 tie.
The script was similar in the second half, with Wake's control of both boards and Maryland's poor shooting allowing the Deacons to slowly pull away.
Griffin had 18 rebounds to go with his 23 points. He summed up the game in one simple statement: "We showed a lot of character out there today."