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A Few Words On Duke-Maryland

This would qualify as Duke's second Really Big Game of the season (with Texas
being the first), and it should be a bigger challenge in every respect. Duke
is playing the #6 Maryland Terps in College Park, and that group of players has
been waiting to beat Duke for quite awhile. After coach Brenda Frese stated
that Duke was "going down" in College Park last season, Duke won that game with
relative ease and then beat them a third time in the ACC tournament.

This year's Maryland squad has some additional talent that's staked them out
to a great record, with only a narrow loss to Tennessee blemishing their
record. They've done this with some key injuries: wing Kalika France, the
team's best defender has yet to play a single minute this season; frosh point
guard Kristi Toliver has also missed a number of games but is back now. The
Terps are a tremendous offensive team, with excellent balance. Five players
average double figures, while a sixth scores 9 ppg. Their only problem is that
they are really only 7 deep and don't have a natural ballhandler other than
Toliver. Still, this group can score in the post, with the superb forward
Crystal Langhorne averaging 16 ppg and 9 rpg. Post Laura Harper has returned
from a season-ending injury last season to put up 11 and 7, plus 3 blocks a
game (she's the post stopper on the squad). Jade Perry is a bit undersized but
is quite powerful, and has done well as a starter with averages of 7 and 7.

Shay Doron continues to be Maryland's leading scorer after being named first
team All-ACC last year. I have always found her defense to be non-existent
(other than gambling for steals) and her shot selection to be questionable, but
there's no denying how efficiently she's playing this season. With Toliver out,
Doron did a credible job at point, averaging nearly 6 apg (though with 4
turnovers a game as well). She's shooting 50% from three and 87% from the
line, where she goes quite often. Toliver has had a nice showing when she has
played, averaging 9 ppg and 3 apg, while soph Ashleigh Newman has done well as
a starter, scoring 10 ppg. The team's true frosh sensation is one-time Duke
target Marissa Coleman. This smooth forward is averaging 16 ppg and 9 rpg, and
is shooting nearly 60% from the floor in general and the three point line!

The question for Duke is if they'll be able to contain a team with that many
offensive options. They've gotten by against teams with 2 or even 3 scoring
threats by concentrating on them and forgetting about everyone else, but that
won't work against the Terps. Duke's shot-blocking posts have been perhaps too
eager to go after blocks, at the expense of blocking out for rebounds. Teams
have been killing Duke inside all year on the offensive boards, and so the bigs
need to hold their ground (since they still have a height advantage against the
Terps) and simply play good defense, rather than go for the spectacular play.
Maryland will have their hands full defending Monique Currie (without France,
there's no natural matchup against her) and Lindsey Harding. In the end, the
team with the fewest turnovers will win, because I expect both teams to shoot
for a high percentage. Turnovers that lead to points could wind up telling the
tale here. Bench play could also be a significant factor; Duke's bench didn't
play well against FSU, and if one or two players step up, that will hurt a
thinner Terp team. However, look for Duke to tighten its own rotation,
probably down to 8 or 9. The game will be on Sunday at 1PM on Fox, aired