The Maryland Terrapins today figured out a key lesson when it comes to postseason play.
Never underestimate your opponent.
Rallying from twelve points down, the fearless Terps stole a 72-70 win in Greensboro, NC.
Maryland (26-4) carried the No. 1 seed into the ACC tournament, and earned a bye into yesterday’s opening round of games.
Wake Forest (19-11) earned the right to play Maryland after squeaking out a defensive slugfest versus the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
The Demons Deacons held steady, until the midway point of the second half.
They went cold from the field, allowing the Terrapins the window of opportunity to get back to what got them here: when the shots are not there, be patient, and look for your teammates to help.
Maryland’s newly minted rookie of the year, Lynetta Kizer (Potomac (Va.) High School), finished the game with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Senior guard Kristi Toliver scored 10 of her 15 points in the second half, as Maryland went on a late 19-2 run to escape from disaster.
Wake Forest did not score a bucket for nine minutes during the rally.
Alex Tchangoue and Corinne Groves each scored 16 points for the Demon Deacons before the rim became their arch enemy.
Maryland has now won 10 straight games.
Kristi Toliver is a prime-time performer, and on this occasion, she rose above adversity yet again to rescue her team.
Toliver hit two huge free throws with 4.8 seconds left in the game to push the lead to 72-67.
Tchangoue hit a inconsequential three-pointer at the buzzer, and the worrying was over for the Maryland supporters in the bipartisan crowd.
Her usual partner in crime was defended well all game by the battling Wake Forest bunch.
Marissa Coleman scored 12 points for the game, an almost 10-point drop off from her regular season scoring average.
Maryland trailed 63-51 with 10 minutes in the game.
Toliver knocked down a contested three-pointer to start the game-winning run.
She connected five minutes later on a long-range shot, which was followed by Coleman’s fast-break layup, and Maryland had their first lead since late in the first half.
With six minutes left in the first half, Maryland had a comfortable nine-point lead.
Then Wake Forest unleashed a barrage of long-range bombs on the shells from College Park.
They went on a 16-5 run of their own to put the upset meter in my mind on high alert.
Brittany Waters hit consecutive three-pointers before Camille Collier connected from beyond the arc to put Wake Forest up 38-36 with 1:55 before the break.
Wake Forest shot 52 percent from the field for the game.
Maryland Coach Brenda Frese warned her girls about the let down her team would face if they did not increase their energy level.
“We were playing on tired legs to start the game,” Frese said. “Kristi and Riss had trouble getting into their rhythm early, and give credit to Wake [Forest] for matching our lethargy with great poise. "There is nothing like the pressure of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament to hit you in the face with a reality check.”
I wholeheartedly agree on these observations.
Maryland next’s game is against the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Wake Forest is on the bubble for making it to the NCAA tournament.
They will be anxiously awaiting word from the tournament selection committee for their invitation to the big dance.
Wake Forest has not won versus a ranked team since 2007.
They have not won versus Maryland since 2002.
If they make it to the NCAA tournament and win a game, it will be their first 20-win season since going 23-8 back in 1986-1987.