- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

Dr. George Lowe of Phoenix, Md., whose daughter is a freshman at College Park, was very proud of his homemade sign. He waved it enthusiastically before the start of yesterday's basketball showdown at Cole Field House, and his tempo increased as the afternoon wore on.
On one side, the sign read "Go #1 Terps." On the flip side, it proclaimed "Dump On Duke."
Mission accomplished: Maryland 87, Duke 73.
As far as being No.1 for the first time in nearly a century of hoops at Maryland, well, we'll have to wait a bit. The USA Today/ESPN coaches poll moved the Terrapins only up to No.2 behind Kansas, and the Associated Press rankings won't be out until today. Regardless, there will be no debate in the minds of most folks who saw Gary Williams' juggernaut stick a pitchfork in the proud Blue Devils amid joyous bedlam at Cole.
"It would be nice to be number one for the students and for the school," Williams said immediately after Maryland's 21st victory in 24 games, "but …"
What he left unsaid, of course, is that this triumph no matter how stirring really means nothing. The Terps probably will have to repeat it March10 in the ACC tournament final and possibly April1 in the Final Four championship, and yesterday's rout should give Mike Krzyzewski plenty of material to pump up a Duke team that is long on individual stars but short on depth.
Meanwhile, the Terps themselves, while remaining properly circumspect in their hour of glory, harbor not the slightest doubt who should be No.1.
"I mean, Kansas is a great team, but we beat the best, so we should be the best," swingman Byron Mouton said reasonably.
After collecting only his fifth victory in 30 tries against Krzyzewski, Williams was equally diplomatic. "I can see why Kansas might be the pick you could make an argument on both sides," Gary said. "But, you know, it's a long season, and we've still got a long way to go."
For sure. Yet the Terps' romp was just about as emphatic as Duke's 21-point decision last month at Cameron Indoor Stadium and fueled speculation that tradition be darned this is not one of Krzyzewski's stronger teams.
There was some statistical evidence to support such a conclusion. For instance, great teams don't treat a cylinder with a net on it as something to be avoided from the foul line. Duke was a sorry 12-for-24, and Maryland rubbed in this deficiency by going 21-for-26.
The Terps also sported a whopping 36-19 rebounding edge at the Duke end, and held stars Jason Williams and Mike Dunleavy to 11-for-36 shooting from the floor. Oops.
Everything being relative, the Blue Devils may repeat their national championship anyway. Yet they appear strangely vulnerable to a talented opponent that comes out as fired up as Maryland was. Cole always rocks when Duke comes to town. This time the lucky ticket-holders seats were being scalped on the Internet for close to a thousand bucks were practically frothing at the mouth as combat approached.
Williams' pregame message to his troops was both sensible and pithy: "Just go out and play your game."
The success of this battle plan indicated perhaps that coaching is not as complicated as we like to believe. Sprinting up and down with admirable alacrity, limiting Duke to one shot on most possessions and converting a batch of uncharacteristic turnovers by the Blue Devils, Maryland led 6-0 at the 18:06 mark of the first half, 25-14 at 8:02 and 33-20 at 3:55.
Duke rallied somewhat to trail by just seven when Krzyzewski shouted instructions to guard Williams with the clock ticking down. Quicker than you could say "ohmigosh," Maryland's Steve Blake stole the ball practically from Williams' underwear and flashed in for a layup that gave the Terps a 38-29 halftime edge.
The second half was more of the same, although Duke rallied within 11 after falling behind by an astounding 64-39 with 10:42 left. Was Williams, perhaps recalling last season's "Gone in 54 seconds" collapse against the Blue Devils, unduly perturbed? Nah. "I knew they'd come back," he said, "because nobody in the country is good enough to beat Duke by 25 points."
Well, we know his Terps are good enough to beat the Dookies by 14, which will do for a start. As far as subsequent meetings with much more at stake are concerned, the Terps will be happy to win by merely 1/14th of that margin. Settle back, folks it's gonna be an intriguing spring.


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