Another Classic Rivalry Game

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Duke and Maryland is a rivalry, there is no doubt about that. The 15,531 in attendance at the Comcast Center, the fifth highest total in ACC history, proves it.

What first started in 2006 at the Final Four when the underdog Terps beat the Blue Devils only grew last year when Duke beat Maryland twice during the regular season to exact their revenge.

This season, with Duke losing All-Americans Alison Bales and Lindsey Harding, and with Maryland keeping almost its entire roster from that 2006 title team, you would think Maryland would have an easy go. Especially at home.

It definitely wasn't easy.

"Anytime we play Duke, the physicality of the game obviously steps up," said Maryland senior Laura Harper when asked about finally putting a stop to not beating Duke at home since 1998. "Pride, obviously, is a big thing with the rivalry. We wanted to end this streak and as much as you don't want to say it, that's something that was important to us and it feels so good to say as a senior, now we did it."

In fact, with 6:55 to play in the game, Duke tied the score at 65, the first time the score was knotted since it was 2-2. With just under six minutes, Duke senior Wanisha Smith was on the line having made the first of two free throws to tie the score again, this time at 68, but her second attempt, that would have been Duke's first lead, missed.

From there, the Terps would go on a 17-2 run to end the game and take it, 85-70.

The argument can be made that Duke played with a lot of heart and a lot of hustle. And they did. But, to be honest, this group of Blue Devils shouldn't beat the Terps, the first team to reach 20 wins at 20-1.

This group of Blue Devils doesn't run as fast as last year's version. They don't pass as well, shoot as well and they aren't as together. They have a new coach, a new system and the only two returning scorers from last year's bunch, Smith and junior Abby Waner, were having a down year up to this game.

Smith and Waner, however, were two of the brighter spots for Duke tonight. Waner finished with 15 points on 6-for-18 shooting. She was, however, only 1-for-7 from long range. Waner still needs to improve upon those numbers for Duke to play to their potential. Smith scored 17, but like Waner, she did so on 4-of-13 shooting. Not exactly her best performance.

The player of the game for Duke (13-4, 2-1 ACC), instead, was freshman Jasmine Thomas. I've been high on Thomas since I first saw her at the United States Under-19 training camp in Washington D.C. back in the summer. Thomas finished with 17 points on 7-for-14 shooting and was 2-for-5 from deep.

Perhaps the biggest key to this game was free throw shooting. Often times, with Duke closing in on the Terps, I thought, "How are they still in this game?" It seems many around Comcast wondered the same thing. But there the Dukies were, still in it for almost the entire game. But when Maryland shoots 42 free throws to Duke's 16 - and makes 33 to their 10 - that is going to cover the difference.

"We had 16 free throws and Maryland had 42?" first-year coach Joanne P. McCallie asked after the game when posed with the very same question. "That's a huge number and unbelievable. I wonder if that's a record or something. That kind of deficit cannot exist for us to be successful."

Maryland (20-1, 4-0 ACC) was led by a player who I think does not get enough credit. Junior forward Marissa Coleman stole the show for the Terps tonight. Hell, she was the show. Coleman, a long-time close friend to Duke's Abby Waner, tied a career high with 30 points off 9-of-13 shooting including going 4-of-5 from three. She also blocked three shots and grabbed six rebounds while making 8-of-11 free throws.

"Like we've said all along; Marissa is a matchup nightmare," said Maryland coach Brenda Frese, who looked like she could go into labor with her twins at any moment. "I thought Duke had no answer for Marissa. She was really strong. I thought she was phenomenal to watch."

Outside of Coleman, the Terps didn't shoot particularly well, the reason Duke was able to stay in this game as long as they did. Shooting under 40 percent for the game, you can bet coach Frese was looking for a better effort in that department.

Point guard Kristi Toliver, the Terps' leading scorer, finished with 21 points but shot 4-of-17 from the field. She did finish 10-of-13 from the line, however. Crystal Langhorne, who looked like she could impose her will in the first half, but struggled in the second, finished with 16 points and seven boards and Laura Harper dropped 13 and grabbed nine rebounds.

Harper and Langhorne both started quick in the first half, only to slow down in the second, but with good reason. The defense they played on Duke's leading scorer Chante Black was impeccable. Black could only muster four points on 2-of-11 shooting thanks to their efforts.

Duke is the No. 10 team in the nation and Maryland is No. 4. That's not that big of a difference, but if you watched this game then you could tell who the national title contender, and who the pretender, was. Maryland was shaky and didn't play particularly sound basketball and yet they still pulled away to win by 15 points.

Good basketball teams can win ugly. This win was ugly and Maryland is a great basketball team.

Play Of The Game:
In the span of one minute's time, with six minutes to play in the game, Duke lost and Maryland won. It was tied, and then it was over, just like that.

Wanisha Smith was on the free throw line needing one more to take Duke's first lead of the night. She missed and Maryland responded as Crystal Langhorne used her lightning-quick post moves to score an easy bucket.

Maryland got the ball back and with 5:23 to play, Marissa Coleman hit a runner that made the crowd erupt - and the crowd was quite noisy all night, but this could have blown the roof off of Cameron Indoor.

With five minutes to play Joy Cheek fouled out and the rout was on. Duke only scored two points the rest of the way to Maryland's 17 after that free throw and that was all the difference.

Player Of The Game:
Maryland junior forward Marissa Coleman
Coleman tied a career high with 30 points and was the one consistent scoring threat for the Terps all night long. But more than the points, it was Coleman's attitude and ability to ignite the crowd and her own bench that set her apart in this one.

"I think the crowd played a big part of it and it's just extra motivation in playing Duke at home," Coleman said. "We wanted to send our seniors out with a win and this was their last chance to beat Duke at home. It was special and it was fun."

You were special, and it was fun to watch.

Quote Of The Game:
Maryland's Laura Harper standing at halfcourt addressing the fans immediately following the game:

"We beat Duke, we beat Duke, you guys!"

Think the No. 4 team doesn't get excited when they beat the No. 10 team at home? Well, when it's Maryland-Duke and Maryland hasn't won a home game versus the Blue Devils since 1998, you get very excited to beat the No. 10 team in the country.

Up Next:
For Duke, the Blue Devils get to go home to Cameron for a game against Kay Yow's N.C. State team on Jan. 20.

Maryland, the first team in the country to 20 wins, travels to Charlottesville for a meeting with Virginia on Jan. 18 as they look to improve to 5-0 in the ACC.

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