For the first time in more than two weeks, there were smiles in the Maryland locker room. The 24th-ranked Terrapins sprinted to an early 20-point lead, then got a standout performance from freshman forward Tahj Holden and routed Wake Forest, 73-51, last night before 14,319 at Cole Field House.
However, the victory may have come with a price. Preseason all-American forward Terence Morris turned his left ankle while setting a pick in the lane and crumpled to the floor with 5 minutes 15 seconds left. He hopped off the court and did not return.
"Hopefully, he is okay," said Coach Gary Williams, who added that he is concerned about Morris's availability for Saturday's game against Clemson. "He ran into somebody's foot out there and twisted it. I don't know how bad it is. Obviously, he did not have to go back into the game because of the score [Maryland led 61-40 at that point]. We'll see [today]. With the ankles, you usually know more the next day."
Morris struggled offensively, equaling his season-low with seven points and shooting 3 of 11. But the 6-foot-9 junior had seven blocks, seven rebounds and four steals.
Center Lonny Baxter and guard Juan Dixon led the Terrapins with 18 points each as Maryland ended a three-game losing streak, its longest in three seasons. Freshman point guard Steve Blake had seven assists and helped hold Wake Forest guard Robert O'Kelley, who was averaging a team-high 15.1 points, to a career-low four points and 1-of-9 shooting.
However, the main story for the Terrapins was the play of Holden, a 6-10 reserve who has played sparingly. He had played a total of four minutes in the two games prior to Saturday's 69-68 loss to Georgia Tech; in that game, Holden fouled out in eight minutes. Last night, he was the first reserve put in the contest, played 18 minutes largely because Baxter was in foul trouble and responded with his best game.
Holden made 5 of 7 shots and finished with career-highs of 17 points and six rebounds. He was 3 of 3 from three-point range; his teammates were 0 of 9 on three-point attempts.
It was a much-needed victory for the Terrapins (12-5, 1-3), who were in danger of dropping into a last-place tie in the ACC with Clemson.
"It felt pretty good to get a win after the tough stretch we had," Holden said, still grinning well after the game.
Maryland started quickly, making its first nine shots without making a turnover and building an 18-2 lead, with all five starters making at least one basket.
However, the rest of the half resembled the loss to Georgia Tech, as the Terrapins became sloppy and saw their lead shrink. Against Tech, Maryland led by 11 points early before falling behind in the second half. By halftime last night, it was 37-27 and Wake Forest scored the first basket of the second half to get to 37-29.
But that was as close as the Demon Deacons got. Over the next 5 1/2 minutes, Wake Forest (11-6, 2-3) missed five layups, one dunk and several put-backs and Maryland regained control. Baxter posted up and made a shot, Morris converted a three-point play on a put-back. Holden scored off a nice inbounds pass from Dixon and a turnaround jumper by Dixon made it 46-29.
After Wake Forest closed to 46-34, Holden scored Maryland's next eight points on a three-pointer from the left corner, two free throws and a nice three-point play on which he was clobbered while making a reverse layup.
"You don't expect that, to be honest," Williams said. "I just wanted him to rebound and play with a lot of energy. He made his first shot, got comfortable and he got some looks. . . . When he is open, he is a good shooter. He does that in practice. It doesn't surprise me, with the looks that he had, that he made the shots. But being a freshman, you never know."
Terrapins Notes: After breaking out of a prolonged slump with 31 points against Georgia Tech, Dixon continued his hot shooting. He was 9 of 12. He also had eight rebounds, six assists and five steals. . . . Redshirt freshman forward Calvin McCall, who had been one of the first reserves in the game since joining the team last month, did not get in last night until just 1:51 remained. Williams said the change in rotation was based on what the team had worked on in practice the previous two days.