- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2003

The Maryland Terrapins are seeking validation along Tobacco Road.
No.12 Maryland visits North Carolina tonight at Dean Smith Center vying for its first victory on an opposing court. While the Terps (10-4, 3-1 ACC) are 9-1 at Comcast Center, Maryland is 1-2 at neutral sites and 0-1 at opposing venues after losing at Wake Forest on Jan.15.
Is Maryland simply a homecourt wonder after beating top-ranked Duke on Saturday, or is it ready to mature into road warriors?
"We still have our concerns about inconsistency and how we play on the road, so North Carolina will be a good test," coach Gary Williams said yesterday. "There's just great homecourts in the ACC. There's no place where you can sneak in and play in an easy atmosphere."
Maryland delivered one of its worst halves of the season at Wake Forest when it seemed out of sync early. However, the Terps cut a 17-point deficit to two in the second half before falling 81-72.
"It made us realize how good we can be," guard Drew Nicholas said. "It's really about being mentally tough and stealing wins. We didn't play great against Wake Forest, but we played well enough in stretches to have confidence to win on the road."
The 21,750-seat Smith Center isn't nearly as imposing as Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. Still, the Terps must prove home comfort isn't needed to win.
"All the energy is coming from the inside," forward Calvin McCall said. "Every time you touch the ball on the road you've got fans booing you, and at home you have nothing but cheers. We just need to adapt to the road."
The Terps aren't alone with road troubles. ACC home teams are 13-3, with only Duke, North Carolina (11-5, 2-1) and N.C. State notching away wins. Several ACC coaches said the league's heavy reliance on young players this season has most teams unprepared to handle road rigors.
"Kids come into this league because they want to play in raucous arenas," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Your communication is key. How much you talk. How do you relay commands, set up plays. A veteran team knows how to do those things."
Said North Carolina coach Matt Doherty: "Road wins are very precious, so you have to try to win all of them at home, but that's not easy when talking about teams like Duke, Maryland, Wake Forest. The crowd distracts the opponent, energizes the home team and helps in recruiting."
Williams said last year's national champions acclimated well to road routines.
"Last year we played the same way wherever we played," he said. "We haven't been able to do that this year. The Wake Forest game in the second half, we played pretty well. That's what we need to do. For the first time in the Dean Dome or wherever, it's a new experience that takes some getting used to."
Williams will use the senior-only starting lineup for the second straight game with forwards Tahj Holden and Calvin McCall. Williams' only concern was not having veteran reserves, but freshman forward Nik Caner-Medley's pair of 3-pointers sparked an early 14-point run against Duke. With Maryland able to go 10 deep, the Terps can afford to spell Holden and Nicholas regularly and still have them available late.
Maryland is expected to test North Carolina's zone defense by going inside to center Ryan Randle and Holden. Randle grabbed 17 rebounds and scored 15 points against Duke, while Holden's passing has been critical to ball flow.
"Early on, we'll see how guys can handle Randle and Tahj," Nicholas said. "And after that we'll start going inside-out, and I'll start getting my looks along with Steve [Blake]. We like to see how teams react. A lot of people think you have to have great shooters [to beat the zone], but you need to get the ball inside."
The Terps also may need another standout free throw effort to avoid the "Curse." Maryland converted 29 of 31 against Duke, including Nicholas' 8-for-8.
"When a guy misses a free throw, it puts the 'Curse' on everyone else around here," Nicholas said. "Miss a couple free throws and it would have changed [the Duke] game a lot."
Notes Wesley Jefferson, rated one of the nation's top linebackers from Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, verbally committed to Maryland's football team for next season. A two-time All-Maryland selection, Jefferson (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) chose the Terrapins over Ohio State and Miami. Maryland fullback James Lynch will forego his senior season to become eligible for the draft. Spring practice begins Feb.23.
Staff writer Jon Siegel contributed to this report.

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