Despite loss to Duke, Terps show again that they're on the right track

January 26, 2012|By Don Markus | The Baltimore Sun

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is certainly not a favorite among Maryland fans -- my older son, now 23, used to call him "The Devil" after the 2001 NCAA semifinal in Minneapolis -- but there's always been a grudging respect paid to a man who has now won more games than anyone in Division I men's college basketball.

So it was interesting to hear what Coach K had to say after Duke's 73-60 win over the Terps at Comcast Center on Wednesday night.

Krzyzewski will always take a positive spin after his team wins -- how the opposing team impressed him, or how hard it played. But the words he used in describing Mark Turgeon's team, and Turgeon himself, showed that he expects the rivalry to become as intense under Turgeon as it was under Gary Williams.

"I thought they played so hard and well together," Krzyzewski said. "I think they're a growing unit, a growing team. Mark's doing a heckuva job. We played really well to win. I'm not saying that we're a great team, we're a good team, and they were good tonight. I thought both teams were good tonight."  

Krzyzewski said that the difference in the game was Duke's size, but that Maryland's athleticism was even more apparent in person to what he had watched on tape.

"They were really moving fast," Krzyzewski said. "You could tell they were really ready for the game. They had good looks on their faces. We changed how we were doing the ball screens after eight minutes because we couldn't do what we wanted to do with their athleticism. We went to a little different way of defending the ball screen. We didn't get strung out as much."

Krzyzewski said that sophomore point guard Pe'Shon Howard "was strong with the ball" and that "I've always loved [Sean] Mosley. I just think Mosley's a guy that every coach in this league would love to have ... it seems like he's always been a veteran, even his freshman year."     

In other words, Maryland fans should be happy with what they saw. Despite losing their past three games, the Terps showed flashes of a brighter future in each of them. Two of the games were on the road and even Wednesday night was a bit different, given the first sellout of the season and all the hoopla surrounding the court-naming for Williams.

What impressed me the most was the fact that the Terps committed only eight turnovers, more than five under their season average. I agree with Krzyzewski that this is not one of his better Duke teams, but Maryland's perimeter defense was better than it has been all season.

The lack of an inside game should be remedied by next season with the addition of stud recruit Shaquille Cleare and the maturation of Alex Len, who continues to struggle after such a promising start. I can envision when the Terps come onto the court next season with Cleare, Len, James Padgett and Ashton Pankey - not to mention 6-8 shooter Jake Layman - they're going to look like a much more formidable team.

I also think that Turgeon got a taste of what Maryland basketball has been like -- and will be like again -- with the big and loud crowd. I'm sure the atmosphere will go back to what it has been when Virginia Tech comes to College Park on Saturday since the Hokies are not having a great year either. But Turgeon appears to be getting the message through to his players about playing defense and sharing the ball. 

A longtime Terps fans told me before the Duke game that he'd be happy "if we keep (the point differential) under 15." I didn't see him afterward, but I never saw so many Maryland fans walk out feeling good about their team after losing to Duke than I did Wednesday night.

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