For anybody not already convinced that Ben Coleman is one of the best players in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, Coleman offered convincing proof yesterday at Cole Field House.
Coleman, Maryland's 6-foot-9 junior center, got 24 points and 13 rebounds in leading the Terrapins to an 83-75 victory over Wake Forest.
Coleman not only made 12 of 18 shots, eight straight during one stretch, but he held counterpart Anthony Teachey to three points and two rebounds. Teachey and Wake had thoroughly outplayed Maryland earlier this month. That mismatch in the middle more than offset the performance of Wake forward John Toms, who scored 31 points before Maryland's Adrian Branch stopped him in the final four minutes. The victory improved Maryland's record to 18-7 overall and 7-5 in the ACC.
Maryland will move into a three-way tie for third place today if Virginia beats North Carolina State in Charlottesville.
This game was so important to Maryland postseason tournament hopes that Coach Lefty Driesell admitted, "I was nervous. I really wanted it bad. There was a lot on the line: the last home game of the season, third place in the ACC, an NCAA bid. I thought we played pretty well."
Maryland led by 13 early in the game, as Adrian Branch (17 points) and Jeff Adkins (18 points) made three consecutive three-point field goals. Toms led a comeback that pulled Wake within six points at halftime. But Coleman and Len Bias--starting for the first time--dominated the offensive boards to start the second half and helped Maryland to a 54-42 lead with 16 minutes left.
"When you're playing zone like Wake was, it's harder to block someone out," explained Bias, who had six rebounds and 13 points. "One time Ben didn't even have position, but in the zone, I think some of their players figured it was another guy's area, and didn't go real hard after the ball."
Finally, the Deacons (17-8, 7-5) started keeping better track of Bias and Coleman. And Toms kept shooting. His 16-footer cut Maryland's lead to 54-46. And Kenny Green, a freshman forward, made two straight inside baskets for a 56-50 score.
When Coleman missed a hook to end his eight-straight streak, guard Scott David followed with a jumper, then made a three-pointer after Branch missed. That pulled the Deacons within 56-55.
Adkins made a three-pointer as the 30-second clock ran down, for 59-55. But Toms and reserve center Tony Karasek scored seven straight points to give Wake Forest the lead with 11 minutes left.
Wake held its biggest lead, 67-63, after a follow basket by Green (17 points). But Adkins made a marvelous hang-gliding layup and subsequent foul shot to make it 67-66. And Adkins made a 20-footer from the top to tie the game at 71.
"I felt like that put us over the hump," Driesell said. Wake led once more, 73-71, after Toms made a jumper over Adkins. But Bias scored a tip-in, then made two foul shots and Maryland was ahead for good. The Deacons helped by missing four of six foul shots in the last 2:41.
"I just couldn't get the ball," Teachey said. "I'd say Coleman is about as good as Sam Perkins (of North Carolina). Coleman kept the body on me. He was everywhere I went. He's a good, aggressive player."
"Down in Greensboro," Coleman said, "Teachey went crazy on me. But this time I knew what he was going to do and adjusted. Usually against a big man, I run down (on defense) and station myself under the basket. But this time, since he shoots so well, I stopped at the top of the key and picked him up."