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Combatants in the Maryland-Duke rivalry hate to see it end

Forget for a moment about where Maryland-Duke might rank in the pantheon of college basketball rivalries and think back instead to Duke fans chanting "Sweat, Gary, sweat" at former Maryland coach Gary Williams. His face is glistening and his silver hair is matted as he stalks the sideline under the hot lights at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Think about Maryland fans howling a four-letter profanity at the Blue Devils, or Juan Dixon tarnishing Duke hero Shane Battier's senior night with 28 points, or Jay Williams' icy stare in the huddle before leading Duke back from 10 points down in the "Miracle Minute" game that still nags at the Terps who played in it.

"Not our rivals," the Cameron Crazies condescended in recent years, trying perhaps too hard to poke the Terps where it hurt most. For significant portions of the 176-game series — which ends as we know it Saturday when the Terps (14-11, 6-6 ACC) visit Duke (19-5, 8-3) for the last time in an Atlantic Coast Conference game — Maryland seemed to be self-consciously scrapping for respect.

But, in its prime, Maryland-Duke was a series that emanated heat. While Duke fans professed indifference, the rivalry didn't fade away quietly at Maryland, not even after the school announced it would join the financially lucrative Big Ten beginning this July. In College Park, the rivalry always seemed personal.

"It always got me fired up," said former Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez, a noted Duke antagonist who was once asked by a game officials to stop gesturing to the mocking Blue Devils fans. "It was unbelievable."

'Those were battles'

The series, in which Duke holds a 113-63 advantage, was gripping enough that a number of key participants say they can't imagine letting it go when the Terps move to the Big Ten.

"It's so funny, people talk about Duke-North Carolina being one of the top rivalries in college basketball," said Jay Williams, the former Blue Devils guard and current ESPN analyst. "It was very difficult for me to relate to that, because it was Duke-Maryland [when I was there]. Those were battles, man. There were times when I would get myself so pumped up to play against [Terps point guard] Steve Blake that mentally I crippled myself before the game even started because I wanted to make sure I would dominate him."

Williams pushed his team to victory in the 2001 "Miracle Minute" game in the next-to-last season at Cole Field House after becoming angered by Terps fans chanting "overrated" at the Blue Devils. Maryland struck back to beat Duke on senior night in Durham, N.C., later that season, and the Blue Devils countered by edging the Terps by two in the ACC semifinals. Then, Duke erased a 22-point deficit and beat the Terps in the national semifinals.

The "Miracle Minute" and the Final Four defeats were the first games cited by Dixon, now a Terps special assistant, when asked recently about the series.

Now with the Los Angeles Lakers, Blake said he will never be free of the memory of the 22-point lead slipping away — even after the Terps won the national championship the following year. Terps fan may remember Lonny Baxter fouling out, or Blake and Duke's Chris Duhon colliding violently and lying on the floor, pain etched on their faces. Blake recalls virtually every detail of the Final Four loss.

"That [game] was something I didn't forget for a long time," Blake told The Sun years later. "You didn't even have another game to help you get over it."

Terps fans may be interested to know the extent to which the rivalry has imprinted on some of the Duke stars.

"I look over at Mark Turgeon — and I understand that he is now the Maryland coach — but for a moment I see Gary Williams," said Jay Williams. "I see Gary sweating and I see Gary cursing out guys and refs. I think about Chris Wilcox dunking the basketball or Lonnie Baxter battling Carlos Boozer down low. I think about [former coach] Lefty Driesell. I think about Steve Francis. That [rivalry] is 100 percent going to be sad to lose. It's going to take an adjustment to consciously talk about Maryland being in the Big Ten, because that's ACC basketball for me."

Former Terps star Tom McMillen agrees.

"It's really one of those regrettable moments in sports where you have to walk away from age-old rivalry because of money," said McMillen, a Maryland Board of Regents member and recent inductee to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

'You could feel it'

The rivalry was never higher-profile than from 2000-02, when the Terps were at their best. But there were plenty of memorable moments before that — Len Bias throwing down vicious dunks as Driesell beat Duke, his alma mater, to win his first ACC tournament championship in 1984; Terps players swarming Joe Smith after his tip-in won a 1995 game played with Gary Williams in a hospital with pneumonia.

Driesell seemed to have no problem switching sides after he was hired by Maryland in 1969. When Duke students asked him for autographs, Driesell said he would reply: "I went to Duke. I can't write."

Williams arrived as Maryland's coach in 1989 — nine years after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski — and the series heated up even more.

"I think it was one of the most intense [rivalries], particularly when Gary was there because Gary is a competitive, intense guy and so is Michael," said North Carolina coach Roy Williams. "So I think it was driven maybe more by the coaches than just the names on the front of the jerseys."

If Maryland fans seemed more invested than their Duke counterparts, that may have been because the Terps have no other prominent rival.

"The closest thing in the ACC was Virginia, but that was never much [of a rivalry]," said Charles T. Clotfelter, a professor at Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy who previously taught at Maryland.

These days, the games may not carry quite as much weight in Durham. But that wasn't the case in the early years of this century.

"When Gary got the place going, they were the only team in the league that I could remember that they really fought back," said Jay Bilas, an ESPN analyst who starred for Duke in the 1980s. "They were going to take a swing at [Duke]. That's when it got to be a great rivalry. ...

"You go into a game and it's not just 'We want to win.' It's 'We want to kick your [butt].' That was part of the motivation. ... It was a crowd thing, but the players wanted it. You could feel it. The Duke players knew it was a rivalry, too. It wasn't a one-way thing."

Along the way, the series developed its own lexicon. There was the "Duke Crying Kid," a little boy in a Blue Devils jersey whose woeful expression was captured on television during Maryland's overtime win in the 2004 ACC championship game and circulated by Terps fans. There were the "Scheyer Faces" — oversized photos of former Duke guard Jon Scheyer in contorted expressions that were waved by Maryland students.

For a time, the series came to be known partly for Maryland fans swarming onto U.S. 1 and clashing with police after Terps victories. The school made a number of moves — including sponsoring a closely monitored bonfire in 2011 — to halt those displays.

The end?

If the series' intensity has waned, that's because Duke had won 12 of 13 meetings until the Terps won twice last season — perhaps the biggest wins since Turgeon arrived at the school in 2011. Krzyzewski, who once won 15 straight against Maryland ending in 1994, is 54-23 against the Terps in his career.

Even if Maryland remained in the expanded ACC, the Terps no longer would have met the Blue Devils twice every season. Saturday's game is the only regular-season meeting this year.

"I think you have to play a team twice a year for it to be a rival." Gary Williams said.

It's uncertain when the Terps and Blue Devils will meet again. They could meet in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge or a preseason or postseason tournament, but Krzyzewski has indicated no interest in scheduling Maryland.

"If [Duke-Maryland] was such a rivalry, they'd still be in the ACC," he told reporters after the second meeting last season.

Among those mourning the rivalry's end is Vasquez, who was one rebound short of a triple-double in his first game at Duke, a Maryland win in 2007.

Throughout his career, Vasquez — now with the Toronto Raptors — had a love-hate relationship with the Cameron Crazies. The fans would yell, "Hola, Greivis" and banter with him in Spanish about his home country of Venezuela.

"It wasn't really trash [talk]. It was fun, because they did their homework," Vasquez recalled this week. "It wasn't 'Vasquez, you [stink],' or 'You can't dribble to your left.' They'd come out with something political out of nowhere. You've got to give them credit."

Vasquez called Duke his "archrival" but he and Krzyzewski shared mutual respect.

"He told me once how much he appreciated my effort in the ACC. I told him how great I think he is," Vasquez said. "You go to Maryland because you want to play against Duke and North Carolina and teams like that," Vasquez said. "It's unreal that it's going to be the last game as of right now."

jeff.barker@baltsun.com
twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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