It took some timely production from one of the ACC's best one-two punches for the No. 7 Terps to avoid a colossal upset.
Tianna Hawkins and Alyssa Thomas scored 23 points apiece and combined for their team's final 15 in a 73-63 victory over Wake Forest on Friday night.
Malina Howard finished with 12 points to help the Terrapins (19-3, 10-1) sweat out their ninth straight win. They shot 54 percent and built a 20-point lead before blowing nearly all of it during a dizzying series of mistakes.
"We saw them coming at us, and instead of making the easy pass, we tried to make the hard one, and it resulted in turnovers," Thomas said.
They regrouped just in time to preserve their huge matchup Monday night at No. 5 Duke, which enters a half-game ahead of Maryland in the standings.
"We had to find a way to grind it out tonight, and not every game is going to be pretty," coach Brenda Frese said. "That was definitely for sure. And we found a way in a close game to grind it out."
Chelsea Douglas scored 17 points for the Demon Deacons (10-13, 3-8), who were denied their biggest victory in 20 years and lost their fifth straight.
They clawed back in the game with a 31-14 run during a 12-minute span that coincided with a stretch in which Maryland had 12 turnovers on 17 possessions.
"We didn't sit back and let them control things," first-year Wake Forest coach Jen Hoover said.
Douglas capped that run with a free throw with 3:01 left to pull them within three at 62-59. Dearica Hamby hit a layup to bring Wake Forest within three again at 64-61 with 2 1/2 minutes left, but the Demon Deacons managed just one more field goal the rest of the way.
Wake Forest had the ball down 67-63 with about 45 seconds left when Asia Williams' open 3-pointer rattled in and out.
"I thought it was in," Williams said.
Thomas scored seven points in the final 2:09, hitting five of six free throws and adding a layup to help the Terps pull away and set up their huge visit to Duke.
Williams had 13 points and Lakevia Boykin finished with 12 on 5-of-17 shooting for Wake Forest, which was looking to beat another seventh-ranked Maryland team—just as it did in 1993.
The Demon Deacons held their own on the boards with the nation's second-best rebounding team. Maryland, which entered with an average rebounding margin of plus-17.5, finished this one with a 27-26 advantage on the glass.
"Our kids are starting to understand that that is a big part of it," Hoover said. "We're really starting to believe in our defense and making people score in the half court against us and not give them (offensive) boards and not give them transition. We're a much better defensive team than we've shown."
But neither team had much success taking care of the ball: Maryland had 20 turnovers while Wake Forest had 23, and the Terps turned those miscues into 29 points.
Thomas, who's tops in the ACC in rebounding and second to Hawkins in scoring, had her younger brother Devin—the starting center as a freshman on the Wake Forest men's team—watching this one from the stands.
She scored 11 of the Terps' first 15 points and needed barely over eight minutes to reach double figures for the 16th straight game.
But Maryland struggled to get much separation until the final moments of the first half, when the Terps started a 26-6 run that carried over through the break. Chloe Pavlech's free throw with 16:50 to play pushed the lead to 48-28.
"We let them play us a lot closer than what it should have been, and we really didn't come out with intensity today," Thomas said. "We saw in the second half, when we came out with that intensity, we were able to get up 20 on them. Credit to them to really put pressure on us and getting us to turn the ball over."