- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

There was "Gone in 54 Seconds," "Revenge on Senior Night," "The Georgia Dome Thriller" and "The Final Four Finale."

The latest sequel of the most captivating current rivalry in college basketball will be produced tonight when No.3 Maryland visits top-ranked Duke. The ACC titans tangled four times last season, including a national semifinal clash, as the Blue Devils erased a 22-point deficit on their way to winning the national championship.

"They bring out the best in us," Duke center Carlos Boozer said. "They all have been great games. Three were 'Instant Classics' on ESPN."

The Terps' season was nearly destroyed when they blew a 10-point lead with 54 seconds left in regulation and lost in overtime at Cole Field House last January. But after a long swoon, Maryland returned the favor at Duke. The Terps overcame a nine-point second-half deficit to pull off a stunning 95-84 upset at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

That only served a prelude to the ACC tournament thriller in the Georgia Dome when Duke took an 84-82 lead on Nate James' tip-in with 1.3 seconds left and survived when Maryland's Juan Dixon narrowly missed a 40-footer at the buzzer. Then there was the wild Final Four meeting in Minneapolis.

"It's hard to explain," Maryland center Lonny Baxter said. "It's just the best basketball you'll ever see when you see these two teams step on the court."

Duke-Maryland, Part V, promises to be as compelling, with Dixon and the Blue Devils' Jason Williams in starring roles. Duke (14-1, 3-1 ACC) and Maryland (13-2, 3-0) are again the league's elite vying for the national title. The game has an intriguing twist because of the Terps' two recent victories in Durham, including snapping the Blue Devils' 46-game home-winning streak in 2000.

But Maryland's win on Senior Night in Cameron was only one installment of the mini-drama that started with Duke's comeback in College Park. Williams scored eight straight points including two NBA-range 3-pointers in 14 seconds to cut into a 90-80 deficit with 54 seconds left before the Devils prevailed in overtime. Williams, an All-America point guard and likely first pick in the NBA Draft, is averaging 21 points this season and making 42 percent of his 3-pointers.

While Williams lives in Maryland's nightmares, Dixon is famous for exorcising the Devils. The senior sniper had 28 points in Cameron last season after going for 31 points in Durham a year earlier. He said he feeds off the Cameron Crazies, and plays on "pure adrenaline" in that atmosphere.

"I don't think it's hate," said Dixon, of the feelings between the programs. "We have the utmost of respect for each other. Coach [Gary] Williams did a great job with this program. Coach K [Mike Krzyzewski] has been with that program forever. It starts with coaching tough. They are both intense, and they motivate their guys to play hard for them."

The rivalry has heated up even more this season. While it's customary to hear Maryland fans shout, "We want Duke," it used to be beneath the Dookies to stoop to that level.

"Our fans don't seem to like theirs, and they don't seem to like us," Terps forward Tahj Holden said. "I remember watching their game [against Georgia Tech last week] and hearing, 'We want Maryland.' Krzyzewski turned and said, 'Oh, we got N.C. State next.' They definitely want to play us. We are a top-tier team, and they are a top-tier team."

The schools have a natural antipathy because Maryland is considered a blue-collar public school while Duke is a blue-blooded private school that costs students $34,000 a year. The intensity spilled over last season after Duke's comeback when Maryland students threw debris from the stands and struck Boozer's mother, Renee, on the head with a water bottle.

There is also animosity between the fiery coaches, including a brief shouting match at midcourt at halftime last season in Cameron.

This season's matchups should be similar to last season's. The Blue Devils are a perimeter-oriented team with sharpshooters Williams and Mike Dunleavy, who scored 22 points in the first half against N.C. State on Sunday. With National Player of the Year Shane Battier now in the NBA, Duke essentially starts four wingmen along with Boozer (17.7 points, 8.3 rebounds).

"It's going to be a big factor," said Baxter, who is averaging 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds. "We're huge on the inside. They only have one true post player really starting for them. We just have to take advantage of it."

The Blue Devils will try to get Baxter and the other big men in foul trouble like they did in the Final Four. The Terps plan to limit Duke's 3-point tries.

"I know we shot the ball well both games [in the wins at Duke]," Gary Williams said, "which certainly you have to do there because Duke is going to shoot well there and they are going to score points."

But the Terps have one huge plus they won't be fazed by the intimidating environment with Cameron Crazies bouncing like jumping beans just off Coach K Court.

"They are not really a big factor," Baxter said. "It gives you a lot of confidence, winning the last two years down there. We know that it can happen again."

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