Even though it had impressive victories over South Carolina and Arkansas this week, Maryland still is a couple of months away from having a chance to challenge for Atlantic Coast Conference supremacy. But, starting at 2 p.m. today at Cole Field House, the Terrapins do have a chance to take care of some unfinished business in their ACC season opener, against Wake Forest.

Maryland, which last season lost all 14 of its regular season ACC games, has especially bad memories of their encounters with the Demon Deacons.

They ended a 24-game ACC losing streak by defeating the Terrapins, 69-58, on Feb. 2 in Winston-Salem, N.C. After the game, Wake Forest players and fans celebrated well into the night. The players were called back onto the court. And Wake Forest Coach Bob Staak received a Bill Parcells-like dousing.

All the Terrapins could do was watch.

Then, three weeks later, Wake Forest defeated Maryland at Cole Field House, 75-68. The Demon Deacons' wins over the Terrapins were their only ACC victories all season.

However, things have changed a little since last season. Wake Forest no longer has its catalyst, Tyrone Bogues, and is off to a 4-5 start. Maryland, with the additions of Rudy Archer, Cedric Lewis, Brian Williams and Tony Massenburg, is 7-2. And the Terrapins, who have not won a regular season ACC game since they defeated Virginia in their 1985-86 regular season finale, will receive an additional boost if Keith Gatlin's and Rodney Walker's grades are good enough for the two to return to the team. That decision will be made after their final first semester grades are reviewed by Coach Bob Wade Monday.

"For my situation," Williams said yesterday, "for Rudy and Cedric and myself, it's a new status. We don't know the emotional effects of the league yet, because we haven't dealt with it. It is a very important game, but we haven't felt what the players felt last year. We just have a superficial understanding of it."

After Wednesday's 88-61 win over Arkansas, Wade was diplomatic enough about Wake Forest's celebration last season, but you have to wonder when a coach remembers something like that nearly a year after it happened.

"They had a celebration, a great celebration," Wade said. "Their fans really got into it. It was a great win for them, great for the ACC."

Right.

"We've been there before, so we understand what they're going through," Staak said. "Being the first ACC game, both teams are going to be ready to play."

In other action involving local teams, Georgetown is in Miami to play the Hurricanes; George Washington is in Atlanta to play Georgia Tech; American is at Florida International and Virginia is at Villanova.

Miami (6-4) lost by 28 points to Purdue Wednesday in the final of the Palm Beach Classic. Nonetheless, the Hurricanes have 7-foot center Tito Horford, and 6-6 forward Eric Brown is the team's leading scorer. They give Miami an inside presence, and for the Hoyas (8-1), their ability to succeed against legitimate big men is a major question as they head for the beginning of their Big East Conference season.

George Washington (7-2) will have its hands full with the Yellow Jackets (8-2), who won the Cotton States Classic championship this week by defeating Auburn, 83-72. Tech will give the Colonials their best test inside so far this season.

Wake Forest had some good moments Tuesday against Purdue in the first round of the Palm Beach Classic. Sophomore forward Sam Ivy scored 19 points and the Demon Deacons came back from a large first-half deficit to lose by just 81-73. In Wednesday's consolation game, the Demon Deacons used their outside game to beat American, 79-66.

"We played kind of intimidated," Staak said of the game against Purdue. "It was our first time against a team of that caliber. We had an opportunity to win the game, but the ball just didn't roll in."

Against American, the Demon Deacons had control of the game, but when the Eagles went to a smaller, quicker lineup and began using zone traps, Wake Forest had problems.

"We played well in our halfcourt offense," Staak said of the game. "We've attacked pressure a lot better than we did."

"They miss Tyrone, of course," Wade said. "{Junior guard Cal} Boyd and {freshman guard Robert} Siler, they've got to have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. That's what we had to do last year."

Ivy, who is averaging 17.8 points per game, leads the Demon Deacons offensively. Center Ralph Kitley rebounds well (6.6 per game), but is not much of a threat offensively. So, Wake Forest also looks for perimeter shooting from sophomore forward David Carlyle, sophomore guard Antonio Johnson and sophomore swing man Tony Black.

Carlyle is Wake Forest's second-leading scorer at 13.8 points per game. Johnson and Black have combined to make 28 of 66 three-point field goal attempts.

"Sam's obviously a very important part of our offensive scheme," Staak said, "but we've been fortunate enough to have others contribute."

Wade said there was no special incentive for him to gain his first ACC victory or for his team to break its streak.

"Any time you start the ACC season," he said, "that's all the incentive you need right there."