Wake Forest hopes a handful of seniors and a bit of history will prove more valuable than momentum in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
The Demon Deacons concluded the regular season Sunday with an 88-61 loss to No. 9 Maryland, their fifth defeat in six games. Next up is a trip to North Carolina for the ACC tournament, which begins Thursday.
"At different times throughout the year we've talked about it as a team — when all cylinders are firing, we played very well," coach Jen Hoover said. "We've got five seniors, it's going to be their last trip to Greensboro and I know it means a lot to them. We've built some things together and I'm sure we're not ready for that to be over."
Wake Forest (12-18, 5-13) will have to play a whole lot better than it did against the Terrapins (23-6, 14-4). The Demon Deacons fell behind by double digits early, trailed by 16 at halftime and never made a run over the final 20 minutes.
Maryland was seeking to rebound after successive defeats to Duke and Florida State, and Wake Forest had the misfortune of being the next team on the schedule.
"They were coming off two tough losses and they're one of the top teams in the country," Hoover said. "They hit us hard early and we weren't able to respond the way we hoped would be able to."
Wake Forest is the only team in the ACC that has won a game at the tournament in each of the last four years. Senior Sandra Garcia expects the streak to continue.
"I think the ACC is so open that anybody is capable of beating anyone in this league," she said. "For some weird reason we always do good in the ACC tournament. So I just think we have to re-focus, stay together and just put our all on the court."
Tianna Hawkins scored 18 points and Alyssa Thomas added 16 for the Terrapins, who have won 14 straight over Wake Forest. Maryland had five players score in double figures, including Sequoia Austin (15 points), Alica DeVaughn (14) and Malina Howard (13).
"We played real aggressive and with confidence, really making shots easier for one another," coach Brena Frese said.
Playing in her final regular-season home game, Hawkins grabbed 11 rebounds for her 13th double-double of the season and 37th of her career. The 6-foot-3 senior forward leads the ACC in scoring and ranks second in rebounding.
"I'm very confident our team is going to make a run in the postseason," Hawkins said.
Thomas, the defending ACC Player of the Year, went 6 for 10 from the floor and had eight rebounds and seven assists.
Dearica Hamby scored 11 for the Demon Deacons, and Garcia and Patrice Johnson each added 10. Wake Forest, which lost by only 10 points to Maryland last month, led only once in the rematch — 3-2.
Maryland was up 38-25 early in the second half before Hawkins made a layup to ignite a 13-2 spurt that made it 51-27. DeVaughn scored five points during the run.
Hawkins and Thomas each scored 11, and Maryland shot 52 percent from the floor in the pivotal first half.
Wake Forest went 2 for 8 from the field with eight turnovers in the first 10½ minutes while falling behind 17-5. During that span, the Terrapins received points from five different players, including four by Thomas during an 11-0 run.
"We just got after it defensively. We didn't let them get open shots," Thomas said. "We tried to control the tempo early with them."
After Asia Williams made a free throw for the Demon Deacons, Austin hit a jumper and scored off her own steal for a 21-6 advantage.
Wake Forest endured a stretch of 8 minutes, 20 seconds without a field goal before Garcia made a layup with 7:15 left in the half. Minutes later, Hawkins scored inside to spark a 6-0 burst that made it 32-13.