Terrapins Out For Revenge

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Welcome to the "House That Gary Built" and that coach Brenda Frese is currently leasing until the men's version of the Terrapins can catch up.

Maryland wears red, the color of blood, and that's exactly what they can smell as the No. 10 Duke Blue Devils come to the Comcast Center.

Sure, Duke is riding an impressive eight-game winning streak since retaining the services of senior Wanisha Smith, junior Abby Waner and freshman Krystal Thomas, who missed a combined 14 games on the season so far.

That doesn't bother Maryland. The Terps will have a message for Duke.

Last season, a dominant Duke team served Maryland payback for defeating them in the Final Four in 2006, beating the Terps twice during last regular season. Maryland is back, but is Duke?

Winning streak or no, this isn't the same Duke team that came into Comcast and came away 69-57 victors last year. This team doesn't even have the same coach, though coach Joanne P. McCallie is doing a fine job in her first season in Durham.

The fact is, the players Duke was planning on stepping up for them this season, namely Waner and Smith, have been either injured or ineffective or both.

Waner might be the team's second leading scorer with 11 points a game, but the junior was so much more last season. She was a firecracker. I personally witnessed her take five or six steps past halfcourt and coldly fire - and swish - the longest three I've ever seen a woman take in a game. That's actually where the idea for the name of this blog came from.

This year Waner is shooting under 35 percent from the floor and I think the country is wondering – along with the people who chose her for preseason All-American status - where the girl who couldn't miss at times went?

We were expecting 20 points per game, not 11, and Waner will have to find that scoring touch if Duke wants to seriously compete for titles this year.

Smith, on the same disappointing hand, has missed five games due to injury but is only averaging 7.4 points on the season. If it looked like she had her year turning in the right direction after back-to-back games in double figures against North Carolina Central and Miami, against Florida State she scored just one point on 0-for-9 shooting.

Another player who I believe is playing under her skill level is center Chante Black. Black was supposed to step right in for Alison Bales' departure and she has for the most part. But at 14 points and under eight rebounds per game, Duke needs more dominating numbers from a player who stands 6-foot-5.

That's why Maryland, who wants to atone for their losses a season ago in the worst way, is salivating at the chance to take down the Dukies.

The No. 4 Terps are 19-1 and have won nine games in a row since their lone loss to Rutgers back on Dec. 3. They are absolutely firing on all cylinders right now. With Crystal Langhorne completely healthy - she was named the ACC Player of the Week for the week of Jan. 7 - to go along with silky smoothness of point guard Kristi Toliver, that's an inside-outside scoring duo that no other team in the country can match.

Toliver, a junior, leads the team with 17 points and almost eight assists per game. Langhorne is now up to 14 points and leads the team in rebounding with almost nine per. Senior forward Laura Harper is doing her thing at 14 points and eight boards and freshman starting two guard Marah Strickland is dropping over nine points a game and has hit double figures in her last four.

Oh, that's only four starters? I must have forgot junior forward Marissa Coleman. She's the Terps X-factor and is consistently overlooked, but for no good reason. Listed at 6-foot-1, Coleman has a basketball players body and looks like an athlete running the floor. She is smooth and big and can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. She is scoring 15 points and pulling down over eight rebounds a night.

I am really not sure there is a better starting five in America, and I am positive that Duke isn't one of them. At home, with revenge on their minds, Maryland should take this game. But then again, it is Duke, and I think I said the same thing last year.

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