After big loss to DUke, UM feels it has a score to settle

The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK - It was Jan. 24, and the Terrapins couldn't get on the bus fast enough. Maryland had just lost to Duke, 85-44, and was eager to leave behind the Cameron Crazies and the memory of its largest margin of defeat in 65 years.

A month later, the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule has fortuitously provided the Terps (17-9, 6-6 ACC) a shot at redemption.

When No. 7 Duke (22-5, 8-4) arrives tonight at Comcast Center, the Terps will have the chance to avenge an embarrassing, double-digit loss - something Gary Williams-coached teams have managed a number of times in his nearly 20 seasons at Maryland.

The best recent example of a "rebound" game came Saturday night, when the Terps - losers by 108-91 at North Carolina on Feb. 3 - came back to beat the Tar Heels, 88-85, in overtime.

It was hardly the first time a Williams team had atoned for an embarrassing loss.

In the first half of the 1999-2000 season, the Terrapins lost to North Carolina State, Duke, Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Then Maryland beat every one of them.

"If you lose the first game, sure, you'd like another shot," Williams said yesterday. "That doesn't mean you're going to win the game because they know they beat you the first game so they have some confidence coming in."

Maryland is the only ACC school with home-and-home series this season against North Carolina and Duke, both ranked in the top 10. The scheduling could play in Maryland's favor, because the Terps need wins against quality teams to improve their credentials for an NCAA tournament berth.

There appear to be a number of factors in Maryland's second-time-around success.

* Teams evolve and mature. Williams said yesterday that the Terps have improved since the first Duke game. Guard Greivis Vasquez, who shot 2-for-10 and scored four points at Cameron Indoor Stadium, is coming off a career-high 35 points and a triple double against North Carolina. Cliff Tucker, who scored two points at Duke, has emerged as enough of a scoring threat to take some of the pressure off Vasquez and Landon Milbourne.

Maryland has dropped guard Eric Hayes from the starting lineup and added freshman Sean Mosley.

Duke has shuffled its lineup, too, inserting a big guard - 6-foot-4 freshman Elliot Williams - who can give opponents matchup problems. "They're playing a little differently," Williams said.

* A learning curve. Maryland played better defense the second time around against North Carolina, particularly around the perimeter. North Carolina shot 38 percent and made five of 19 three-point attempts Saturday, compared with 51 percent and 16 of 25 in the first meeting.

* Revenge. Williams wasn't talking about retribution during his media availability yesterday, but the players sure were.

Dave Neal used "revenge" in his comments, and Vasquez talked about needing "payback" for "a horrible game at their place."

Both players referred to the "41-point" loss in a way that suggested the number will forever remain in their heads.

It would be hard to overstate how embarrassing the defeat was. The Cameron Crazies, always adept at hitting opponents where it hurts most, chanted "Not our rivals" at the Terps and "Sweat, Gary, sweat" at Williams. Duke led 40-15 after a first half in which Maryland, one of the nation's best free-throw shooting teams, didn't attempt a foul shot.

"The biggest thing I remember is just how Duke completely took us out of our offense," Neal said yesterday. "We watched ...maybe two or three minutes [of the blowout loss] yesterday before practice. Coach Williams kind of used it as a teaching tool to say: 'There are about two or three things we need to change and I think that game would have been totally different.' We let Duke overplay us and we didn't stay composed."

Then Neal mentioned what might be the biggest factor of all in revenge games - home-court advantage.

"It's just going to be out of this world [at Comcast Center]," the senior said. "People don't hate UNC around here, but when Duke comes in here, there is a big hatred of Duke in the state of Maryland."

NO. 7 DUKE (22-5, 8-4) @ MARYLAND (17-9, 6-6) Tonight, 9 TV: ESPN Radio: 1300 AM, 105.7 FM Line: Duke by 4 1/2

BOUNCING BACK

Gary Williams' teams have often rebounded from double-digit losses. Some examples:

108 - 91 -- Feb. 3, 2009, vs. UNC * Next meeting: Won, 88-85 (OT) on Feb. 21, 2009

98 - 84 -- Jan. 3, 1996, at Georgia Tech

* Next meeting: Won, 88-74,

on Feb. 3, 1996

94 - 80 -- Dec. 29, 1993, vs. UMass

* Next meeting: Won, 95-87,

in NCAA tournament

on March 19, 1994

75 - 63 -- Jan. 27, 2000, vs. UNC

* Next meeting: Won, 81-73,

on Feb. 26, 2000

80 - 70 -- Jan. 9, 2000, vs.Duke

* Next meeting: Won, 98-87,

on Feb. 9, 2000

TONIGHT'S GAME

What to watch for

Duke overplayed Greivis Vasquez in the team's last meeting and held him to four points. How will the Terrapins adjust if the Blue Devils again bring their defense out to the perimeter to stop Maryland's leading scorer?

Key matchup

Vasquez vs. Gerald Henderson or other Blue Devils. Vasquez and Henderson are both coming off 35-point games.

What it means

Maryland upset North Carolina on Saturday, but the Terps still don't have a lock on an NCAA tournament bid and need to continue to boost their credentials.

Jeff Barker

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