Duke brings identity woes to Maryland

January 30, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- The team is coming off a disappointing road loss and is talking about finding the maturity needed to win in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It is still trying to adjust to life without its former star, an NBA lottery pick last summer.

Sounds like Maryland, you say?

Nah, try seventh-ranked Duke.

Relatively speaking -- relative to nearly all of the other 297 Division I teams in the country -- the Blue Devils are struggling coming into today's 1:30 game against the Terrapins at Cole Field House. At 14-3 overall and 3-3 in the ACC, they already have lost more games than they did in winning a second straight national championship last season.

"There was a lot of excitement based on the fact that we didn't lose a game during the month of December," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said earlier this week. "I understand that. Once you lose a couple of games, you have to make some adjustments. A more experienced team can adjust quickly. We haven't been able to adjust in January."

Said senior guard Thomas Hill: "I think a few guys are taking things for granted. There are people who are expecting that things are going to get done magically, and that's not the case."

It seemed that the magic was back in Durham, N.C., early this season, when Duke beat then top-ranked Michigan the first week of December. Then, there was a lot of talk about a three-peat. The victory returned the Blue Devils to what had almost become their private domain: the No. 1 spot in the polls.

But losses to Georgia Tech, Virginia and most recently to Florida State exposed their most obvious deficiency: a lack of depth and, says Krzyzewski, of identity. The depth, with the development of sophomore center Erik Meek and junior forward Marty Clark, is getting better. The identity, a more businesslike, less emotional version of their former selves, is coming into focus.

"We're maturing as a basketball team," said Krzyzewski. "Last year we were mature on Oct. 15 and ready to go. This year we weren't."

Still, it seemed almost strange to hear Duke players talking about learning from their one-point overtime defeat to the Seminoles in Tallahassee this past Sunday.

Just as Krzyzewski tried to deflect pressure from his players last season by saying that "we're not defending anything, this team is trying to win a championship," he is doing the same thing now. Publicly, he blames himself for his team's play, for not recognizing the fact that he might have to tell his players something more than once for it to sink in.

Krzyzewski joked after the Florida State loss that he considered making "a quick call to Minnesota" for the desperation inbounds pass that was picked off by Charlie Ward. The Blue Devils certainly miss Christian Laettner. He wasn't popular with his teammates, but they respected his toughness in close games and, more significantly, in big games.

Even senior point guard Bobby Hurley, whose personality clash with Laettner was well-documented, admitted this week that he hasn't been able to provide the same kind of leadership. Hurley and Thomas Hill tend to be more diplomatic, where Laettner, and Brian Davis to an extent, were in-your-face types.

"The great thing that Christian did was that he was able to tell somebody what they were doing wrong," said Hurley. "He didn't always do it the right way. But we knew that if we could take anything from Christian, we could take anything else."

Duke is not going to evoke much sympathy around the country, especially at Maryland. Tell Gary Williams, whose 10-6 Terps (1-5 in the ACC) are coming off a crushing 10-point loss at Clemson, that the Blue Devils are struggling, and he smirks.

"They're still a great team," he said yesterday. "They have the best point guard in the country. A lot of people think Grant Hill will be the best player in the country next year. Struggling? Compared to what?"

To the recent past. No matter how hard they try to forge their own identity, these Blue Devils will be linked with their predecessors -- win or lose.

"We've all been spoiled by the success we've had," said Grant Hill. "I don't think it's pressure. Obviously, we're not going to go 34-2. But that doesn't mean we can't get stronger by the time the tournament starts again."

By then, the Blue Devils might just ready to go for a three-peat.

Duke's domination

A look at Duke's 11-game winning streak against Maryland:

Season .. .. .. .. .. Site .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Score

1987-88 .. .. .. .. .. Maryland .. .. .. .. .. .. ... 90-83

1988-89 .. .. .. .. .. Maryland .. .. .. .. .. .. ... 82-72

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . Duke .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 86-60

1989-90 .. .. .. .. .. Duke 9.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 1-80

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . Maryland .. .. .. .. .. ... 114-111*

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . ACC tourn. .. .. .. .. .. ... 104-84

1990-91 .. .. .. .. .. Maryland .. .. .. .. .. .. ... 94-78

.. .. .. .. .. .. .... Duke .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .101-81

1991-92 .. .. .. .. .. Maryland .. .. .. .. .. .. ... 83-66

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . Duke .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 91-89

.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . ACC tourn. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 94-87

*-Overtime

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