02/23/04 — OPINION - Duke gets back to "D"

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OPINION - Duke gets back to "D"

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on February 23, 2004 1:55 PM

DURHAM -- Duke 86, Visitor 63.

The result beamed from the rustic scoreboard in the corner of Cameron Indoor Stadium after the Blue Devils men's basketball team trounced Maryland on Sunday.

The Terrapins happened to be the visitor last night. But, I got the feeling when Duke went on one of its patented big runs in the middle stages of the first half, it didn't matter who it was playing.

The Devils, who are now tied with Pittsburgh with an NCAA-best 40-game home winning streak, were back in front of the Cameron Crazies after dropping two in a row on the road. Duke hasn't lost three in a row in the conference since the 1995-1996 season.

After a couple of tough practices according to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, the Devils snapped the losing streak. Meanwhile, they may not have burst Maryland's NCAA Tournament bubble, but certainly sent it packing to College Park with some doubts.

Sure, the Terrapins are one of the youngest teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season, and many an inexperienced squad have stumbled in front of the raucous Crazies.

Veteran Maryland guards in recent wars with Duke, Steve Blake and Drew Nicholas, are long gone to graduation. A couple of extra ball handlers to assist point man John Gilchrist would have certainly eased the load, but this was a difficult breed of defensive pressure.

Devils' center Sheldan Williams stepped into passing lanes. Sean Dockery came off the bench and swiped four steals in 10 minutes of action in the first half and had six steals on the game. Another reserve, Shavlik Randolph, blocked two shots in the second half and is showing signs of being a tough inside defender.

It looked a lot like the top-ranked Duke team that reeled off 18 straight wins and sat at 10-0 in the ACC.

"We responded well after losing two really tough games. We got back to playing better defense," Krzyzewski said. "Maryland's really talented and (John) Gilchrist is really tough to defend."

"It took a good team effort to get us here."

Maryland coach Gary Williams believes despite a now 4-8 ACC record that this team which features four sophomore starters has improved through the grind of the conference schedule.

And, for the first few minutes, the Terps looked poised to give Duke another tough conference game and this time on its home floor. Maryland took an 11-9 lead early on a basket by Gilchrist.

Duke knotted it up at 11-11. Coach K called a timeout. Shortly, the game changed dramatically in Duke's favor.

The team defense led to a handful of easy baskets as 23 of the Devils' 45 points in the first half came off turnovers. After a steal, Duhon whipped a jump pass into Luol Deng in the post, who dunked it home, pushing Duke ahead 28-14 and capping a 19-3 run.

"The thing you find out through the years is that you have to score against them. You have to match their offense with your offense," Williams said. "Whenever we've had success against Duke in the past, we've been able to go inside-out on them. We aren't able to do that right now."

Krzyzewski was pleased, the Crazies were well, crazy, and after dishing out a little criticism to the home faithful for a lack of fervor after the Clemson game last week, Coach K had no complaints about Sunday's crowd.

"The fans were great. They were cheering for their team and really crowded them (Maryland)," Krzyzewski said. "Those kids are great."