This was nerve-wracking stuff for Maryland tonight, what with Wake Forest moving slower than a museum tour and 5-foot-3 guard Tyrone Bogues tugging at Len Bias' belt. But Bogues finally ended up clinging to Bias' ankles and Maryland eventually ran away from the last-place team in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 59-48 victory at Greensboro Coliseum.
The Terrapins had good reason to be edgy in this one, because they trailed twice in the first half, led by only 27-24 at intermission and were unable to pull away until the final minutes. But they finally ran off seven straight points over the last 3:32 of the game, and the Demon Deacons finally ran out of tricks to finish their regular season winless in the ACC.
Slipshod as it was, the victory took Maryland (16-12 overall, 5-8 ACC) another small step toward an NCAA tournament bid. Wake Forest (7-20, 0-14), meanwhile, became the first team in school history to go winless in regular-season conference games.
The victory makes Maryland three for four on Tobacco Road this season. The Terrapins lost to Duke, 80-68, on Jan. 18, but upset North Carolina State and then-No.1 North Carolina within the last two weeks to decidedly improve their chances for an NCAA bid, and this was a must win. With only Virginia remaining Saturday at Cole Field House before next weekend's ACC Tournament, Maryland would seem to have a reasonable shot at an NCAA berth.
"I think we're in," Coach Lefty Driesell said. "If we're not, then I'm not going to commit suicide, and neither are my players. But we've won three of four here now, and I think we've shown we can play with anybody in the country."
The Demon Deacons coupled their typical slowdown game with a box-and-one defense that had the audacity to put the diminutive Bogues, who is third in the country in assists (220) and eighth in steals (82), on Bias. Get ready to cushion your fall, because he helped hold the all-America forward to 16 points and scored 16 himself to tie Bias for the game high.
But no other Demon Deacons were in double figures, and they trailed the entire second half despite coming as close as three on five different occasions. Maryland, meanwhile, spread the rest of the scoring around, placing four players in double numbers. Guard Jeff Baxter scored 14 points and guard Keith Gatlin and forward Tom (Speedy) Jones had 11 each.
"Our goal at the beginning of the game was to hold Bias to 15, and he got 16," Staak said. "We put our best athlete on him. They were 16 very difficult points. . . . But they made some big shots and we didn't. We got worn down."
The Deacons pulled within four with 3:32 remaining when Charlie Thomas, from Seneca Valley High, made it 52-48 with his turnaround jumper in the lane. But that's when Maryland ran off its seven straight points to end things. Bias hit a turnaround jumper in the lane, then Lewis made a driving layup and added a rebound layup with 1:29 left to make it a 10-point game at 58-48.
Bias picked up his fourth foul with 7:38 to go, sending Alan Dickens to the line for a one-and-one. But he missed the back end to make it 46-42, and Bias showed no ill effects of his foul trouble when he answered with an 18-foot jumper with 6:26 left.
Despite being held under his 23.4-point average, Bias did manage to score some landmark points. His first free throw of the game set a Maryland record for most consecutive foul shots in a season with 31. Bias made one more to tie Bob O'Brien's Maryland career record of 32 made over two seasons, but he missed his next attempt.
In addition, Bias' first four points moved him past John Lucas and Adrian Branch into second place on Maryland's all-time scoring list. He needs 29 more to pass Albert King's all-time mark of 2,058.
"It threw me off a little at first," Bias said of being guarded by Bogues in Wake Forest's creative defense. "Because he's so small, you have to be aware of where he is all the time. But the other guys were making their shots.