The lesson was harsh.
When the Maryland women's basketball team faced Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke 36 days ago, the Terps' 10-game winning streak and hopes of an undefeated league record came to a crashing halt in an 18-point loss.
Maryland trailed by 17 at halftime and never got closer than nine points in the second half. The game was the opposite of the Terps' five-point loss to then-No. 1 Tennessee in November.
"I don't think it was our best effort," sophomore forward Laura Harper said of the team's performance against Duke on Jan. 8. "Tennessee, that was a moral victory. Duke was not really a moral victory. I think that game showed that we had holes in our game and that we had holes in our defense. There were a lot of things that we needed to work on."
Harper's perspective - shared by many of her teammates - crystallizes the assignment awaiting the No. 6 Terps when they travel to Durham for a rematch with the No. 2 Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7 tonight.
Maryland (22-2, 9-1) will likely be clashing with a No. 1 opponent for the second time in as many games. The Terps nipped current No. 1 North Carolina, 98-95, in overtime on Thursday night, and Duke (22-1, 9-1) will probably vault over the Tar Heels into the top spot when the Associated Press poll is released this afternoon.
Although Maryland has never beaten two top-ranked opponents in a season, coach Brenda Frese seemed unfazed about the schedule that sends her team into the heart of North Carolina twice in five days.
"These are the wars of the ACC," she said. "The conference is having a tremendous year, and that's why you come here. Every night is going to be a battle. So we're excited about the matchups and the chance to learn about ourselves and see where we're at in February."
While the Terps have defeated North Carolina in the teams' past two meetings, they have failed to replicate that against the Blue Devils.
Duke has won the past 13 meetings by an average of 20 points, and Maryland under Frese is 0-9 against the Blue Devils. The last time the Terps defeated Duke was 63-62 on Feb. 3, 2000, in Durham.
The Jan. 8 game was a microcosm of the Terps' struggles against Duke. Maryland turned the ball over a season-worst 24 times and hauled in just 26 rebounds, another season low.
Before Thursday's game against North Carolina, no team had scored more points against the Terps (86) or made more field goals (33) than the Blue Devils.
"We had a lot of things to work on," said sophomore center Crystal Langhorne, a 16.6-point scorer who had just 10 against Duke. "Their defense caused us so many problems, so I think we got to work a lot on our offense and how to be patient and not to turn the ball over too much."
While the Terps can expect a heavy dose of senior forward Monique Currie, who scored 18 points in the first game, the team can't ignore junior guard Lindsey Harding or sophomore center Chante Black, who each had 19 points.
Maryland has five players averaging in double digits, but perhaps more importantly, the team is hoping to ride the momentum of Thursday's win into another upset.
"I think the key is using it to our advantage," junior guard Shay Doron said. "We can't let it get us to go loose and relax right now. We have to take that momentum and kind of build off of it because it can definitely help us."