The Terrapins' dependency on Adrian Branch finally caught up with them. After taking a four-point lead early in the second half tonight, Maryland decided to go into a semidelay game, with Branch the designated shooter.
But when Wake Forest double-teamed Branch, the Terrapins went 11:34 without a field goal and lost another close Atlantic Coast Conference road game, 48-42, to the 14th-ranked Demon Deacons in the Greensboro Coliseum.
The Terrapins have lost four ACC road games by five points or fewer, leaving Coach Lefty Driesell and his players groping for answers.
"I told our ball club we are coming very, very close but we can't get over the hump," Driesell said afterward.
"We've been folding in tight games down the stretch," said Pete Holbert. "Always coming close and losing is easy to do. We've got to get used to winning. North Carolina and Wake Forest seem to win these games."
Despite being double-teamed, Branch, the leading freshman scorer in the conference, led the Terrapins with 17 points and seven rebounds. But Maryland (14-10, 4-8 in the ACC) shot 35 percent from the floor and missed 11 of 12 shots during the scoring drought. Branch was the only Terrapin in double figures.
"When they isolated to Branch, we double-teamed him and made him give up the ball," said Wake Forest Coach Carl Tacy. "It was very effective, especially since no one else was scoring much. Branch is the biggest cog in their wheel, so we had to put the clamps on him."
Other than containing Branch late in the game, Wake Forest (18-6, 8-4) didn't play especially well. The Deacons shot 43 percent, but they took advantage of Maryland's offensive predictability and made their foul shots down the stretch.
The Terrapins trailed, 19-17, at halftime but Branch scored Maryland's first six points of the second half, and center/forward Mark Fothergill made a layup with 16:08 to play, all of which gave the Terrapins a 29-25 lead.
Deacon guards Mike Helms--the only Wake player in double figures with 14 points--and Danny Young made jump shots to tie the game at 29. Veal put Maryland ahead again, 31-29, with a short shot off a Jeff Adkins lob pass with 13:18 to play.
Maryland would not score another field goal until 1:40 was left, when Adkins made a 20-footer to keep Wake Forest from running away with the game.
The Deacons tied the game at 31 on a basket by Anthony Teachey and took the lead for good, 32-31, on a free throw by forward John Toms. Fothergill had two free throws at the 7:42 mark, but Wake increased its lead to 43-33 before Adkins' jumper.
Maryland made one more run, when Branch and Holbert scored seven points, pulling the Terrapins within 46-42 with 46 seconds left. But the Deacons ran the clock down to 10 seconds before Helms made two foul shots for the final margin.
Jim Johnstone, Wake's 6-foot-11 senior center, scored all six of his points in the first half and took only one shot in the second half, as Fothergill did another creditable job of inside defense.
But scoring was not Johnstone's main concern tonight. Maryland beat Wake Forest earlier this season, in College Park, by playing a patient, double post offense that the Deacons seemed unprepared for.
"This time," Johnstone said, "we weren't caught by surprise"