- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2006

It’s almost become an annual rite. An improved Maryland women’s basketball team welcomes a large throng to Comcast Center when conference power Duke comes to town, only to leave the fans a bit disappointed with a loss to the ubertalented visitors.

It happened again yesterday as turnovers and an inability to work the ball into the post plagued the No. 6 Terrapins in an 86-68 loss to the No. 2 Blue Devils before 16,097, the second-largest crowd in ACC history.

“It’s a tremendous atmosphere, one we love and enjoy,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “It really allows our team to have great energy, and we’d love to play in this type of atmosphere every game. It’ll just continue to help us when we go play in the ACC tournament, as well as the NCAA tournament.”

Chante Black and Lindsey Harding scored 19 points for the Blue Devils (14-0, 3-0 ACC), whose effective trapping in the post helped force 24 turnovers.

The defeat snapped a 10-game winning streak for the Terps (14-2, 1-1 ACC), whose other loss came Nov. 26 against No. 1 Tennessee. It also was the 13th straight time Maryland fell to Duke, a stretch that began in 2001.

There was some hope Maryland finally would put an end to the Blue Devils’ dominance in the first meeting of top-10 teams in College Park since 1993. That alone was just the latest milestone for the Terps under Frese, who in four seasons has reinvigorated a program that had reached two NCAA tournaments in the nine years before she arrived.

Perhaps that bigger picture makes it easier for the Terps to put their latest loss to the Blue Devils in perspective. Maryland entered yesterday as the nation’s second-highest scoring team — Duke is No. 1 — and its underclassmen-laden roster only should continue to mature as the season progresses.

“It’s definitely not a setback,” said junior guard Shay Doron, who had 12 points, seven assists and nine turnovers. “There’s a lot more games to play. We’re worried about one thing, and that’s a championship, so this game is not going to decide if we’re going to win one.”

If anything, yesterday illustrated why a gap remains between Maryland and the established elite. The Blue Devils went nine deep with ease, brushing aside frontcourt foul trouble and receiving a career high in points from Black. Star swingman Monique Currie (18 points) struggled in the first half, but Harding provided a spark before Currie bounced back after the break.

As helpful as the scoring balance was, it was Duke’s defense that doomed the Terps. The Blue Devils swarmed any Terps player who received a pass in the post, leading to a frustrating day for Maryland center Crystal Langhorne. The sophomore struggled to find shots and finished with 10 points.

The constant pressure wore down the Terps, who made their first five shots before their touch disappeared. Maryland pulled within 22-20 with 8:30 left in the first half, but the Blue Devils produced a 23-6 burst to pull away.

“I think it was the turnovers that were huge for us,” Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. “We got our hands on a lot of their passes, and that was important for us because we needed those extra possessions.”

Maryland didn’t fade until late in the second half, pulling within nine a couple times only to see Duke convert on offense to counter a potential rally. If the Blue Devils’ depth and precision are reasons they are serious national title contenders, feistiness and talent are reasons the Terps soon could join them in the championship chase.

“We know when we get on the floor we can compete with anyone,” Frese said. “We just continue to work and get better. We know there’s going to come a day, if we continue to improve, that we will be able to beat them.”

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