DURHAM, N.C. -- What do you tell your players when they're about to face the No. 1 team in the country on its home court? If you're Gary Williams of Maryland, you remind the Terrapins of other major road upsets in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.
For starters, you tell them to remember what they did at Florida State a couple of weeks ago, when Maryland shocked the then-No. 24 Seminoles. You tell them that this is what the ACC is all about. And, mostly, you tell them to relax.
"You can't build it up into anything too much," Williams said before practice yesterday in College Park. "The players know they're playing the No. 1 team in the country on their home court. Let's play well and take it from there."
One more thing Williams will remind his team about: It had better get off to a good start, which didn't happen the last time the teams met. In that game, an 83-66 Duke victory at Cole Field House on Jan. 8, Maryland fell behind 25-8 in the first 10 minutes and never caught up.
But Maryland (10-11, 3-8) was a different team back then. The Terps were still using Walt Williams at point guard, and the Blue Devils forced the 6-8 senior into a nightmarish performance. His 25 points were overshadowed by 11 turnovers and no assists.
"We have to stop their transition and keep them off the boards," said junior Kevin McLinton, who switched with Williams from shooting guard the following game and has been there since. "We didn't do a good job at that the first time."
Duke (20-1, 10-1) also was a different team. The Blue Devils had Bobby Hurley at point guard. The 6-1 junior broke his foot two weeks ago in a 75-73 loss at North Carolina and was expected to be out for three weeks, possibly more.
With Grant Hill at the point, the Blue Devils have won three straight on the road, with Hill averaging 18.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists against LSU, Georgia Tech and N.C. State. But Duke is scoring 20 points a game fewer as a team.
"Hurley makes a big difference," said Maryland forward Evers Burns. "But they have great players who can step up. Grant Hill has done a great job for them at the point."
Though Maryland has played a little better on the road of late -- the Terps nearly won at Virginia -- Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the Blue Devils have won 26 straight, is perhaps the toughest building in the league (and maybe the country).
Tonight marks Duke's first game at home in nearly three weeks, and as senior forward Brian Davis said earlier this week: "I'm sure they [the fans] can't wait for us to play home. When we've been away awhile, it can get pretty crazy."
Maryland freshman John Walsh is looking forward to the craziness. The 6-7 forward has heard all about Cameron from his teammates. "I haven't been nervous anywhere else, so why should I be nervous there?" he said yesterday.
Gary Williams, meanwhile, worries about his players getting too emotionally charged for tonight's game. The Terps continue their two-game ACC road trip Saturday night at Clemson before returning home for their first non-conference game since late December, Tuesday night against North Carolina-Greensboro.
"We just have to play as hard as we can against Duke and hope we have enough left for Clemson," the coach said.