Will Duke do number on Terps' `55'?

Devils usually solve UM's full-court press

January 09, 2000|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- When does 55 equal two?

When the full-court defensive pressure that has been a staple of Maryland basketball under coach Gary Williams gets destroyed by Duke.

The Blue Devils come to Cole Field House today at 1 p.m. in search of their sixth straight win over the Terps. The average margin has been 21.4 points, as a deep cast of Duke ballhandlers has slashed its way through Maryland's full-court pressure -- also known as "55" -- and turned some of those games into a layup drill.

"They've been equipped to handle any defense," Williams said. "They handle a lot of teams' defense, whether it was full-court pressure or not."

Granted, No. 12 Maryland (11-3, 0-1) is hardly the only program that has been embarrassed by coach Mike Krzyzewski's past few teams. When the eighth-ranked Blue Devils (10-2, 1-0) won an overtime shootout at Virginia on Wednesday, it made them 32-1 in their past 33 Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season games.

As Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins said, "Duke looks like it's back to its old tricks."

Duke lost four NBA first-round draft choices from the team that was upset by Connecticut in last year's NCAA tournament final. It lost to Stanford and the Huskies, the top two entries in last week's AP Top 25, by a total of 10 points at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in early November, but it since has run off 10 straight wins.

In the only game in the past five in which the Devils didn't exceed 100 points, they got 96. Four freshmen -- guard Jayson Williams, forward Mike Dunleavy and post players Carlos Boozer and Nick Horvath -- look as if they've always been in a Duke uniform.

"It seems like it's been going on for so long now," Maryland's Williams said. "When a player goes to Duke, he plays a certain way. Whatever he played in high school, that's one thing. Now that he goes to Duke, he plays Duke basketball, whatever that is."

Maryland's full-court defensive tenet of denying a team's primary ballhandler has been countered by Duke, which lately has had an abundance of open-court talent. Williams is a pretty good press offense by himself, but veterans Shane Battier, Chris Carrawell and Nate James are also dangerous off the dribble.

The Terps, meanwhile, haven't relied as much on full-court pressure as they have in the past.

"We've made adjustments to our team this year, in terms of our press," said Williams, whose team sometimes hasn't had the energy necessary to press. "We're not pressing as much as we have in the past because we're young. Our bench, sometimes it's there and sometimes it's not. You have to be a little careful."

The Terps are coming off of an ACC-opening loss at N.C. State, but if there is a game that Maryland can draw on, it would be its Dec. 4 victory over Illinois. After his full-court pressure got beat repeatedly, Williams slowed the tempo, and the Terps pulled out their best win of the season.

Today's game has a number of intriguing matchups.

Terence Morris and Shane Battier might be the nation's two best power forwards. Duke's Williams goes head to head against a fellow freshman point guard, Steve Blake. He's the only pure guard in Duke's rotation, as Carrawell has also been running some point.

Carrawell doesn't have Battier's defensive honors, but he is renowned for shutting down the opponent's top perimeter threat. Last year at Cole, his 6-foot-6, 215-pound frame forced Steve Francis into a 3-for-14 day. Look for Carrawell to shadow Juan Dixon, who prospers when the Terps' half-court game breaks down.

If there was one position where Maryland had an edge on Duke in December, it was with Lonny Baxter at center, but Boozer has come on lately after missing much of the preseason with a broken foot. He isn't Elton Brand, the national Player of the Year last season and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, but Boozer is getting there.

"We need Carlos, and he's responded to that need, despite being out September and most of October," Krzyzewski said. "Given the injury, he's surprised me."

The Devils can get a leg up on their fourth straight ACC regular-season title, while the Terps can be as happy as .500 gets in the conference.

NOTES: Morris needs five points to become the 35th Maryland player to score 1,000 career points. Morris and Battier are among the ACC leaders in six of the eight statistical categories. The Terps have won 15 straight at Cole since last January's loss to the Blue Devils. Maryland is 2-1 and Duke 2-2 against ranked teams. Krzyzewski has 31 coaching victories over the Terps and Virginia, his most frequent victims.

Terps today

Opponent: No. 8 Duke

Site: Cole Field House, College Park

Time: 1 p.m.

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

Line: Duke by 2 1/2

Tickets: Sold out

Duke dominance

Since Maryland beat Duke, 74-70, on Jan. 26, 1997, the Blue Devils have dominated the past five meetings.

Date ..........Site ........................Score

2/27/97 ...Cameron Indoor .........81-69

1/3/98 .....Cole Field House .....104-72

1/29/98 ...Cameron Indoor .........86-59

1/3/99 .....Cole Field House .......82-64

2/3/99 .....Cameron Indoor .........95-77

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