COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Maryland needs to play like it's 1999.
After finishing the first six weeks of the college basketball season with a surprising a 10-2 record, the Terrapins are 1-3 in January and one of two winless teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
They've lost three straight and plummeted 12 notches to No. 24 in the AP poll. The youthful Terrapins have suddenly started to act their age, flubbing easy shots, committing painful turnovers and failing to capitalize on the talent of junior forward Terence Morris.
As a result, reeling Maryland faces a veritable must-win situation Wednesday night at home against Wake Forest.
"This is a good chance to get back on track," coach Gary Williams said before Tuesday's practice. "Are we playing much worse than when we were 11-2? No. We just have to handle a couple situations better than we've handled them."
Despite fielding a team without a senior starter, Maryland knocked off Illinois, Iowa and Kentucky in 1999. The smooth ride ended Jan. 6 with a two-point loss at North Carolina State in which Morris, a preseason All-American selection, scored 20 points but went 8-for-18 from the field and had a season-high seven turnovers.
Maryland then shot a horrid 34 percent in a 10-point loss to Duke at Cole Field House before falling 69-68 at Georgia Tech on Saturday. In that game, the Terrapins had a chance to win it in the closing seconds, but freshman Steve Blake passed an open shot in the lane before Juan Dixon threw the ball out of bounds as time expired.
"If you're young, you do things like that," Williams said. "You almost anticipate that you're not going to always handle situations well when you're young, and we have a young backcourt."
It didn't help that Morris was 4-for-12 and scored a mere 11 points.
"We need to get four or five guys shooting the ball well, and we'll be fine," Williams said. "If we get more people involved it will be easier for Terence to score more."
There is no shame in losing at home against Duke, but the Terrapins (11-5, 0-3) can't afford to fall to visiting middle-tier teams such as Wake Forest and Clemson, which plays at Cole Field House on Saturday.
"It's definitely important for us to get a couple of wins. Those three losses really hurt us," sophomore forward Danny Miller said. "We can't afford to focus on the losses, though. There are a lot of games left."
The Demon Deacons (11-5, 2-2) have won seven of their last nine games against Maryland, including an 85-72 victory last January that ended a five-game losing streak. The Terrapins hope to return the favor, but it certainly won't be easy.
Three of the Deacons' five losses have been by two points or less. Their victims include North Carolina, Temple and Arkansas, and they've won three of their last four games at Cole Field House.
The last time Maryland lost three straight was late in the 1996-97 season. The Terrapins haven't dropped their first three ACC games since 1995-96, when they recovered to go 8-8 in the league.
The last time Maryland opened 0-4 in the ACC was 1992-93. That was also the last time the Terrapins missed advancing to the NCAA tournament.
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