COLLEGE PARK -- Cole Field House has been quiet for nearly a month. Tonight, it comes back to life, and the Maryland basketball team hopes it can, too.
The Terrapins return home after three games -- all losses -- on the road. But along with the first sellout crowd of the 1991-92 season, No. 1 Duke will be waiting for them.
"Playing Duke is obviously a tremendous challenge," Maryland coach Gary Williams said yesterday. "At the same time, you know your players will be ready to play."
After a pair of discouraging defeats at the Fiesta Bowl Classic, Maryland (7-4, 0-1 in the ACC) was ready to play last Sunday in its league opener against 14th-ranked Georgia Tech.
But a strong start turned into a humiliating 92-67 defeat to the Yellow Jackets, the largest defeat by a Maryland team in three seasons under Williams. The Terps were outscored 40-24 the last 15 minutes.
"We're have to get to the point where we can play 40 minutes against a nationally ranked team," said Williams, whose team will face N.C. State and No. 8 North Carolina on the road Saturday and Monday.
While Maryland hasn't beaten Duke at home since 1985, and has lost 14 of its last 15 meetings with the Blue Devils, the Terps have traditionally played the defending national champions tough at home.
Who can forget the 114-111 overtime thriller with Duke two years ago, when Maryland finished the game with a nervous freshman named Evers Burns at center? Who can forget the way the Terps hung tough last year, even after Walt Williams sustained a broken leg, before succumbing 94-78?
"We look forward to these kind of games," Walt Williams said. "This is a great opportunity for us. If we execute and do the things we're supposed to, we'll have a chance to win. And it would be a great win."
For Maryland to have any chance tonight, it must find its collective shooting eye. The Terps came into the season admitting a weakness in their perimeter shooting and have done little to disprove it. They shot less than 40 percent from the field the past two games.
Of particular concern has been the recent play of junior guard Kevin McLinton. After coming into his own during Williams' prolonged absence last year, and getting off to a good start this season, McLinton is in the midst of a three-game slump.
Said Gary Williams, "It's just up to Kevin to take the ball to the basket. He started playing very tentative out in Arizona."
Despite a game Saturday at home against Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils will not be overlooking Maryland. Though Duke has ** yet to lose this year, there are still areas in which coach Mike Krzyzewski hopes his team can improve. Such as the 23 turnovers it committed Monday night against Florida State.
"We've always had tough games with Gary's teams up there," Krzyzewski said yesterday. "Their style of defense can be very disruptive."
Gary Williams doesn't think Duke will be bothered by tonight's crowd, but he hopes that it can revive Maryland.
"It's going to be a great night," he said. "We're looking forward to it."