Proud Terps again prove No. 1 nemesis of Duke

Defending champs make statement, handing Devils their first defeat, 87-72

Heart lacking at Wake returns

17 straight free throws part of UM's balanced bliss

January 19, 2003|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - They were growing tired of the talk about their supposed inferiority. They looked inward after a discouraging loss and decided to correct some problems of their own making.

And yesterday, before a roaring sellout crowd at Comcast Center, the Maryland Terrapins erased some frustration and used their archrivals to remind a national television audience that yes, they still are defending Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA champions.

Oh, how No. 17 Maryland needed a victory over top-ranked Duke. And did the Terps ever deliver the goods while dismantling the previously unbeaten Blue Devils, 87-72.

Maryland spotted Duke an early 13-3 lead, answered with a 14-0 run, then erased a six-point halftime deficit with nine answered points before delivering a telling blow with a 20-5 run midway in the second half.

When it was over, the Terps had knocked off the Blue Devils as a No. 1 team for the second straight time, had pulled into a first-place tie with them in the ACC and had won their 13th straight conference home game.

The Terps (10-4, 3-1), stung by a lackluster effort in a nine-point loss at Wake Forest on Wednesday, ran through proverbial walls in the pursuit of rebounds and loose balls yesterday. You want composure? Maryland ran its offense with near-perfect precision, played tough defense without getting into foul trouble, and made free throws with cold efficiency, converting 29 of 31 attempts - the seventh-best percentage (.935) in school history.

Maryland coach Gary Williams once again shook up his starting lineup, replacing freshman forwards Nik Caner-Medley and Travis Garrison with seniors Calvin McCall and Tahj Holden.

The winning chemistry returned with a fury. Maryland, which beat a team currently ranked for the first time in five attempts, used its seniors and outstanding contributions from its young bench to overwhelm the Blue Devils (12-1, 3-1).

Duke started three freshmen and showed what a minefield the ACC poses on the road. Only two road victories have been recorded so far in the league. Freshman guard sensation J.J. Redick, who scored 13 hard-earned points before fouling out with 5:14 left, learned that lesson the hard way.

"Each team each year has to get a watershed win, and this certainly was a great win, because you're playing the best program in the nation in the last 15 years," said Williams, who welcomed recent Maryland great Juan Dixon back as an honorary co-captain.

"We're the kind of team this year where each guy contributes. We're not Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter and a lot of guys helping out. The last two days we've been talking a lot about enthusiasm for the game, showing up every night. The one concrete thing we talked about was rebounding."

The Terps posted, all right, starting with their foundation. Senior guard Drew Nicholas led the team with 24 points, including 8-for-8 at the foul line, and dogged Redick on defense. Senior center Ryan Randle overcame early turnovers and finished with 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.

The supporting cast contributed heavily to Duke's undoing. Holden added 10 points and three blocks. Senior point guard Steve Blake outplayed Chris Duhon by running an offense that committed only three turnovers in the second half.

Then there was the bench, which outscored the Blue Devils reserves 28-18. Junior forward Jamar Smith and Caner-Medley each scored eight points, with Smith securing six rebounds. Freshman guards John Gilchrist and Chris McCray each added six points.

Gilchrist, McCray and Smith were at the heart of a 20-5 run that turned a 53-53 tie into a 73-58 lead with 8:15 left. Smith scored eight points and had two huge offensive rebounds during the surge, with Blake on the bench with three fouls.

Only a career-high 26-point effort from senior forward Dahntay Jones kept the Blue Devils from getting torched.

"Coach knows we didn't play with a lot of heart at Wake Forest. When it was 13-3, he said, `Don't do this again.' We just looked each other in the eye and said it wasn't going to happen," McCray said.

"I was just having fun out there, like I was playing in my back yard," said Randle, who was too much for freshman forwards Shelden Williams and Shavlik Randolph. "Once you rip down two or three [rebounds], you feel like you can rip down all of them."

The Terps simply had more bounce in them than Duke, which could not match Maryland's athleticism down low or its quickness and determination in the open floor. Randle and Nicholas, with an assist from Caner-Medley - he made two early three-pointers - dragged Maryland out of its early doldrums, which included five turnovers in the first four minutes.

Maryland stormed back to take a 17-13 lead, then traded leads with Duke, until Redick re-awakened to score the final five points of the first half, giving the Blue Devils a 43-37 lead at the break. The Terps then responded with a 9-0 run to open the second half, as Nicholas scored the first four points.

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