Duke's Battier takes aim at targeted Morris

Esteemed Terp finds match in unselfish foe

January 08, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

DURHAM, N.C. -- Terence Morris can relate to the gunslinger of Old West myth, the man wannabe hotshots measured themselves against.

Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. State's Damon Thornton had some monster jams and putbacks to punctuate his matchup against Morris, the Maryland ace who began this season as the most highly regarded power forward in college basketball. A week from today, Georgia Tech's Jason Collier will try to showcase his talents against Morris.

First, however, comes a challenge from the ACC rival who most closely duplicates the versatility and potential in Morris' game. No. 8 Duke invades Cole Field House tomorrow, and Shane Battier is the one power forward in the ACC who doesn't have to play over his head to neutralize Morris.

Morris, the Atlantic Coast Conference's preseason Player of the Year, is 6 feet 9, 205 pounds. Battier is 6-8, 215. Morris is the fifth-leading scorer in the ACC with a 17.0 average, Battier the seventh at 16.1. Both are juniors, and both are team players who at times in their college careers have subdued some of their talents to involve everyone else in the rotation.

"We're similar in that regard," Battier said Thursday, after the Blue Devils had watched video of the Terps. "Terence is a consummate team player. From my end, I'm more concerned with winning than personal stats. If I get 10 shots or 20, it doesn't matter, but it's interesting that both of our coaches stress that when we [he and Morris] take more shots, we're more apt to win."

Earlier this week, Williams suggested that Morris stop being so unselfish, and he responded by matching his career high with 18 shots in the 68-66 loss at N.C. State. Last season Battier -- and Duke -- shifted into a higher gear when he dropped four three-pointers and 27 points on Maryland in the Blue Devils' fifth straight dominating win over the Terps.

Battier had received some national prep Player of the Year honors at Country Day in Birmingham, Mich., in 1996-97, but he became an offensive afterthought on a Duke team that featured four NBA first-round draft choices. A career 24.4 percent shooter from three-point range when Maryland went to Duke last February, Battier has since made 46.7 of his long-range attempts.

"That game gave me a huge boost of confidence," Battier said. "It gave me a springboard for the rest of the season. I felt my stroke afterward."

Morris, incidentally, made just three of his nine shots in that game, and Battier's reputation remains largest at the defensive end. While Morris' athleticism will make him a lottery pick, Battier will earn his first $10 million as a small forward, trying to stop the Kevin Garnetts and Lamar Odoms of the world.

Battier was voted the Defensive Player of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches last season. He has blocked 119 shots and taken charges 76 times in his career, off-the-ball work being his forte.

"Terence creates some problems for the way I play off the ball," Battier said. "He does a good job of floating outside, not something you see every day. Most power forwards work block to block, but he has the freedom in Maryland's offense to post up or float outside. Instead of being able to lose my man or turn my head like I sometimes do, that doesn't work against him.

"The best power forward I've played against was [North Carolina's] Antawn Jamison. I remember the `Tractor' [Michigan's Robert Traylor], but Terence is probably the most versatile power forward I've played against."

Like Morris, Battier had to assume a larger role out of necessity this season. He arrived at Duke as part of one of the most celebrated recruiting classes ever, but the group disbanded last spring, when Elton Brand and William Avery left early for the NBA and Chris Burgess transferred to Utah.

"I have mixed emotions," Battier said. "It's been great for me to have the opportunity to step up and play more minutes and take more shots. There's been some sadness, too, because those guys were my college experience. When I see what they're doing on `SportsCenter,' I miss them."

His experience this season will include at least two encounters with Morris.

"The most important thing is trying to get the win, but in the process, it's a great matchup," Battier said. "Rivalries are great for college basketball. It brings out your best when two talented, competitive people go head to head. That's great for fans to see, and it's a lot of fun to go up against a great player."

Next for Terps

Opponent: No. 8

Duke Site: Cole Field House, College Park

When: Tomorrow, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM

Tickets: Sold out

Powerful matchup

When No. 8 Duke meets No. 12 Maryland at Cole Field House tomorrow, the game will feature two of college basketball's premier power forwards -- Maryland's Terence Morris and Duke's Shane Battier. How they stack up:

Battier Morris

Scoring 16.1 17.0

Rebounding 5.9 8.2

FG % .467 .550

3-pt. FG % .415 .387

FT % .849 .732

Blocks 1.9 3.1

Assists 1.9 3.1

Steals 2.0 1.6

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