- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Maryland basketball team has thrived as much as anyone in the last half-dozen years against Duke.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Cameron Indoor Stadium is the best place for the 23rd-ranked Terrapins to visit just four days after a jarring loss at Miami.

The Terps (11-3, 1-1 ACC) are coming off their ugliest effort of the season and will encounter top-ranked Duke (14-0, 2-0), a team eager to end a three-game skid against a program that has enjoyed uncommon success against college basketball’s standard bearer in recent years.

“It’s nice to say, ‘Well, we beat them down there a couple times,’ but you’re still playing the No.1 team in the country on their court,” said Maryland coach Gary Williams, whose players were unavailable to the media yesterday. “Obviously, if you look at the schedule and you’re playing at Miami first, you would like to think you have a shot at going into Duke with a road win already. That’s how it works in the conference. You have to get them when you can.”

Maryland had a chance to get one Saturday against a Hurricanes team that had done little to impress in the first few months of the season. Instead, the Terps hardly looked like a team improved from last season, mixing impatience on offense with sometimes nonexistent perimeter defense.

Throw in shaky rebounding on both ends and it was little surprise the Terps departed with an 84-70 loss in their first true road game of the year. The listless performance still rankled Williams yesterday, though he didn’t think it would be a problem tonight.

“One game doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong,” Williams said. “You just didn’t get ready for that game. You don’t look at that. If we do the same thing [tonight], then we’d have to look at that.”

Recent history suggests there probably won’t be any such sluggishness. The Terps toppled the Blue Devils twice last year as an unranked team, stunning Duke at Cameron before outlasting them in overtime less than three weeks later in College Park.

Since 2000, the Terps are 7-9 against Duke, a number impressive because no other team has defeated the Blue Devils more than three times in that stretch. Duke has lost six games in the past eight seasons at Cameron, and three were to the Terps.

Those stats alone should buoy the Terps, although they have lost John Gilchrist since last year. The point guard, who turned pro a year early, produced a 26-point effort in the 2004 ACC tournament final and a near-triple double in last year’s meeting at Comcast Center to help the Terps win both games.

Of course, those games can’t do much to help the Terps against senior sharpshooter J.J. Redick, whose tireless motion on the perimeter and deep range will draw the attention of both Chris McCray and D.J. Strawberry tonight.

Maryland also must contend with center Shelden Williams, a player who becomes especially effective when opponents expend more energy to guard the perimeter. And then there’s sophomore DeMarcus Nelson, who came back from a broken right ankle Sunday and whose return nullifies some of the Terps’ advantage off the bench.

Still, Maryland possesses a deeper rotation, and Williams hinted he might make some changes to his lineup after the loss Saturday. One possibility to assume a greater role is center Will Bowers, who started both games against Duke a year ago and gives Maryland a much different look than usual.

“We worked on some combinations in practice that might not start but that you might see pretty quickly in the game depending on how the game’s going,” Williams said.

Any strategy with the rotation could be rendered meaningless if the Terps fall behind big early, as they did while surrendering the first 13 points Saturday at Miami. Perhaps it is unfair to make too much of the loss, but a similar performance — even one against the nation’s No. 1 team — would prove rather troubling for Maryland.

“You play 30-some games in basketball, so one game doesn’t kill you or take you out of anything, especially with the way the league looks this year with so many teams being 1-1 right now,” Williams said. “Hopefully, it’s a wake-up call.”

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