Cutting Duke Down to Size
In a resounding victory, Maryland revealed the Blue Devils' Weaknesses
Moments after Maryland toppled No. 1 Duke 87-72 in College Park last Saturday, the Wall came tumbling down. The West Wall, that is, as the near-vertical section of students seated behind one of the baskets at the new Comcast Center has been christened. Starting from the bottom and crumbling upward, it disintegrated, the red-clad Terrapins fans spilling onto the floor in a gleeful jumble.
It was a fitting ending to a game that not only rejuvenated Maryland (10-4) but also proved that the previously undefeated Blue Devils (12-1) were beatable. Duke may yet win the ACC and go to its third Final Four in five years, but this year's freshman-laden squad had many weaknesses exposed on Saturday. The Terps provided this guide on how to beat Duke.
The Blue Devils, who hadn't been tested on the road, started three freshmen against Maryland—shooting guard J.J. Redick and forwards Shavlik Randolph and Shelden Williams—and the youngsters finally looked their age when confronted by the Terrapins faithful, who showered them with taunts. "The upperclassmen were telling us how tough and hostile this was going to be," said Randolph afterward. "But nothing can prepare you for this. You have 18,000 people who hate you, who want to see you fail."
Duke's weakness in the post became clear in narrow victories over Georgetown and Virginia, but no team exploited it as successfully as Maryland. The Blue Devils' big men have length but not width; gangly Randolph and junior forward Nick Horvath are decent shot blockers but don't play good position defense; Williams has been a nonfactor; and senior center Casey Sanders is a liability on offense.
Terrapins coach Gary Williams made rebounding the team's priority before the game, stopping practice every time a player didn't hit the glass. The result? Maryland outrebounded Duke 43-32, with senior center Ryan Randle pulling down 17 boards.
Duke's guards are among the best in the country, and they can beat you from the outside or by driving to the basket. None can stick the dagger more lethally than Redick. To counter him Maryland treated Redick as if he were a dominating inside player, often doubling him when he came around screens. "We helped too much a couple of times, and they got easy looks down low, but you have to do it," said Gary Williams. In other words Sanders shooting from six feet is better than Redick firing from 22.
Make them earn it.
Free throw shooting was Duke's Achilles' heel last season, and it undid the Blue Devils again on Saturday, when they shot 9 for 20 from the line. When Sanders and Shelden Williams got offensive rebounds in the second half, Maryland defenders fouled them before they could finish the plays.
Ignore the uniforms.
Yes, Duke has a 176-20 record over the last six seasons and has been No. 1 for 37 weeks during that span. But the Terps have beaten the Blue Devils four times since 1999-2000; no other team has beaten them more than twice. The reason for Maryland's success? "We don't look at them as 'Du-u-u-uke,' all high and mighty," says senior shooting guard Drew Nicholas, raising his hands in a we-are-not-worthy gesture. "To us, they're just Duke. We beat them before, and we're gonna beat them again.