- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Maryland is the hunter once more.
The No.13 Terrapins (16-6, 8-3 ACC) seek their first season sweep over No.8 Duke (17-4, 7-4) since 1995 tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium. After beating No.10 Wake Forest (17-4, 7-3) on Monday 90-67 to regain the ACC lead, Maryland is poised for a commanding run over the final five games.
The recent two-game losing streak appears forgotten after two straight victories. With North Carolina (13-11, 4-7) visiting Saturday, Maryland can seemingly seal the top seed for next month's ACC tournament and sweep two long-time rivals.
"Bring it on," guard Steve Blake said. "This makes it a very tough week for us. We can't really celebrate [beating Wake Forest] because a loss down at Duke would even things out for us. We're confident. We'll try to stay consistent and try to win out the regular season."
Said forward Tahj Holden: "This is what you live for as a basketball player. You don't want to play easy games all week long. You want the competition. You want the challenges."
Certainly, winning at Duke is more than challenging. ACC home teams are 38-10 this season with Duke 5-0 against conference foes and 12-0 overall inside their bandbox. However, Maryland was the last visitor to triumph at Cameron in 2001 after also winning the previous year. Coach Gary Williams said the start is everything to surviving at Duke.
"You can lose it in the first four minutes because they do get energized by the crowd," he said. "If you can [avoid] that, hopefully your players have some confidence."
Maryland's three road victories lead the ACC. Williams said extensive summer play has demystified some programs as players meet each other in less formal settings. The familiarity has led to a balanced race, with only 1 games separating the top four ACC teams.
"There's more teams with confidence this year," Williams said. "That confidence comes from the fact that nobody has sustained a streak. … I don't think there's that team out there that scares anybody to play one time. The fear is gone from a lot of players because they see each other all summer at camps. There's no unknown with television and the summer. Freshmen come in not afraid of anybody."
The Terps awakened from a midseason slump that saw poor defensive play spill over into offensive woes. However, Maryland scored its most points in 10 games against Wake Forest by dominating underneath and getting standout play from guards Drew Nicholas and Blake.
Maryland outrebounded Wake Forest 44-24 although the Demon Deacons came in leading the nation in rebounding margin (12.5). Center Ryan Randle scored 13 points with 13 rebounds and four blocks as Maryland steadily pushed Wake Forest around underneath. With forwards Calvin McCall, Nik Caner-Medley and Holden combining for 29 points and 14 rebounds, the Terps scored 17 second-chance points while limiting Wake Forest to 12.
Blake led Maryland with 21 points, largely by making 12 of 13 free throws. Nicholas' 19 points included a 3-pointer with 11:50 remaining amid a 23-15 Wake Forest run. The Terps' leading scorer (18.0) has regained his outside touch the past three games with a penchant for timely treys.
"Drew's pretty consistent in those situations when we get into trouble," Williams said. "It's nice to know that somebody wants the ball with his experience that's going to take the big shot. I think that relaxed everybody when that shot went in."
Nicholas knew the clutch shot was needed to thwart a Wake Forest comeback after Virginia's 12-point comeback with 10 minutes remaining beat Maryland 86-78 on Feb.6 at Comcast Center. The 3-pointer increased Maryland's edge to 12, a margin that later was trimmed to six.
"For most of the game, we really had a comfortable lead," Nicholas said, "but eight to 12 points with 10 minutes left is still very much a game."


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