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Terps bent, not broken

DURHAM, N.C. — Durham, N.C. -- They talked about their surprise, frustration and even their anger, but the one emotion that wasn't overriding Maryland's basketball team in the locker room immediately after Wednesday's 76-52 loss to No. 1 Duke was concern.

The No. 23 Terps (11-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) remained steadfast in their belief that 29 turnovers, six assists and 30.2 percent shooting at Cameron Indoor Stadium was not a true indicator of what they are capable of.

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"We're way better than this tonight," senior forward Travis Garrison said. "We weren't playing our game at all. We weren't playing Maryland basketball. We're not playing up to our potential."

There was plenty of pre-game hype, as Maryland's three-game winning streak against Duke heading into it legitimized the possibility of an ESPN-televised upset - despite a poor performance four days before in a loss to Miami. The game itself, though, lacked the drama of a matchup between two such storied programs, as Duke capitalized on Maryland's 18 first-half turnovers and cruised to a 23-point lead at the break.

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The Terps won't face Duke again until the Blue Devils visit Comcast Center on Feb. 11. Next on the schedule is Wake Forest, which dropped to 11-4 with Wednesday's overtime loss to Clemson. The Demon Deacons will be looking for their first conference win at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in College Park, as they, too, have lost to Duke.

Maryland had cruised into the heart of the ACC schedule this month on a six-game winning streak - one that included an upset of then-No. 6 Boston College. That momentum came to a screeching halt in Miami on Saturday when the Terps were surprised by the Hurricanes' convincing 84-70 win.

It was then that Maryland coach Gary Williams said the Terps looked reminiscent of last season's team, which went to the National Invitation Tournament for the first time in 12 seasons. After Wednesday's loss, which dropped Maryland to eighth place in the ACC, he said it didn't mean that they were "a bad basketball team."

"I'm proud of what we've done in the past," he said, referring to Maryland's recent success against Duke. "We didn't do it tonight, but that doesn't mean we're a bad basketball team because a lot of teams that are supposed to be ranked higher than us didn't get it done."

Senior guard Chris McCray, the only player on the Terps' roster to score in double figures against Duke, said he still feels Maryland is "one of the best teams in the country."

"It's no major concern," McCray said of Maryland's back-to-back ACC losses. "It's still early. It's only January. We still have a long way to go. We still have a lot of practice time and a lot more games coming. If we win out, we have a great chance to win the league."

Asked if there was any concern about Maryland's current position in the ACC, senior forward Nik Caner-Medley replied, "Probably for you, but for us we're going to keep working hard and continue to try and get better.

"Against a team like Duke, we beat them here last year and played great," he said. "This year we played terrible. It's something we can improve."

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After the game, Williams said he was critical of his team's ball-handling, and that "aside from the point guard situation, it's that we drop a lot of balls in traffic."

The players agreed they rushed the offense, but center Ekene Ibekwe quickly came to the defense of junior point guard D.J. Strawberry. A former forward, Strawberry was thrust into the position this season to compensate for the early departure of John Gilchrist.

Strawberry finished with five turnovers Wednesday night - second only to McCray's six. Nobody on the team had more than one assist.

Asked if Maryland's offense struggled because Strawberry is still learning the position, Ibekwe said: "You can't say that because D.J. didn't make all those turnovers. The team did."

McCray said it's correctable.

"We just played too fast," he said. "We weren't really running our offense. We weren't executing plays. We were trying to make the big play instead of the simple play. We still have time to fix things. Hopefully it will be fixed by Sunday."

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heather.dinich@baltsun.com

Wake Forest @No. 23 Maryland Sunday, 7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet, 1300 AM, 105.7 FM


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