Friday, January 7, 2011

Maryland rivalry is special to Duke's players

DURHAM - As a senior guard, Duke's Nolan Smith has been around long enough to know what the Blue Devils' rivalry with Maryland means.

As a native of the Washington, D.C., area, Smith has a personal stake in the rivalry as top-ranked Duke (14-0, 1-0 ACC) prepares to play host to the Terrapins (10-4, 0-1) at 8 p.m. on Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"The Maryland games, they’re a rivalry game," Smith said this afternoon. "Their fans hate us. Our fans hate them. Being from Maryland, I can’t go to College Park. They’d say bad things to me. It’s personal."

Although some N.C. State fans might say otherwise, Maryland has emerged as the Blue Devils' second-biggest rival after North Carolina. The Terrapins are one of the two teams on Duke's schedule every season, in part because the Duke-Maryland game is one of the more highly sought television properties in college basketball.

Since 2002, Maryland has defeated Duke eight times in 20 games. Only North Carolina (also 8-12) has that many wins over the Blue Devils during that period.

A 79-72 Terrapin win on March 3 of last season marks the last time Duke has lost. The Blue Devils have reeled off 24 straight wins since then, the second-highest total in their history.

"We know that’s the last team to beat us," said Duke sophomore guard Andre Dawkins. "And we want to get them back."

Tactically, Duke's two biggest concerns appear to be Maryland's fast break and the half-court prowess of sophomore center Jordan Williams. He leads the ACC in field goal percentage (.576) and rebounding (11.8 rpg) and is averaging 17.6 points per game.

"We're going to find ways to keep the ball out of his hands or get it out of his hands," said Duke forward Ryan Kelly.

The fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium would expect nothing less. Duke's students will be back from winter break just in time to aim their "Sweat Gary, sweat" chants at one of their favorite targets, Maryland coach Gary Williams.

"It’s a game where Coach Williams always has them ready to play," Smith said. "We get fired up for them. We have a lot of preparation time for them to get ready, and we’re going to be ready to play them."

Ken Tysiac