Preview: Duke (15-0) v. Maryland (11-5)

Duke returns to the court Wednesday night with a shiny new No. 2 ranking and a slew of confidence after dismantling Florida State on their floor on Saturday. That's a stark contrast from their Maryland opponents who come in after being waxed by NC State over the weekend. Despite the appearances, this game will be a mid season Final Four for Gary Williams and his team, meaning Duke will certainly take the Terps' best shot. <i>TDD</i> previews the match up as the Devils look to go 16-0.

Duke (15-0, 5-0 ACC), ranked second in the nation by the AP and by ESPN/USA Today, faces Maryland (11-5, 2-3) on Jan. 26 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tip-off is set for 9:00 PM.

Coming into the season Maryland was expected to challenge for the top of the second tier of the ACC. After all the reigning ACC Tournament Champions returned most of their rotation (most notably ACC Tournament MVP John Gilchrist), and had a solid recruiting addition in the form of 6'8 big forward James Gist. However, something happened to this team early on, and it's been up to head coach Gary Williams to figure out what.

So far he's yet to come up with any real answers as the Terps have plodded their way to an 11-5 mark overall and a 2-3 conference record. True, wins over teams like Florida State (90-88), Temple (80-69), then No. 24 Memphis (84-61), and Virginia (82-68) have offered hope to those in College Park, however for every good victory there has been an extremely ugly loss, including three of their last five games.

Back to back blow outs to North Carolina (34 points) and Wake Forest (81-66), coupled with an embarrassing performance against NC State (85-69) over the weekend, have the critics out in full force. Even Williams has begun calling his players out publicly, most notably Gilchrist.

Despite all the problems, this remains a very talented and dangerous team, capable of playing with, and beating, anyone in the country no matter the venue. Given Williams' public and private disdain for all things Duke, you can bet the Terps will be fired up and ready to spoil the Blue Devils' bid to move to 16-0 on the year.

Meet the Terrapins

C- Travis Garrison (6'8, 240, JR) – Many in College Park projected Garrison to be the closest thing to Lonny Baxter since the former Terp left school. With a similar look and build, Garrison was a major problem for the Blue Devils last season in the ACC Tournament, scorching Duke for 19 points and seven rebounds. Despite his size, Garrison is able to step away and can hit mid range jumpers with regularity, although he is streaky. He can even pull his man all the way out to the perimeter, though Williams wouldn't object if his center would concentrate himself on the low blocks a bit more.

This season has seen a noticeable upswing in Garrison's production as he's averaging 10.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, good enough for second on the team. He's doing all this in just 24 minutes per night.

One thing Garrison hasn't been is explosive. Instead he's been with range of his season averages, averaging 8.3 points and 6.3 rebounds over his last four contests.

Season Highs: Pts: 21 (Jackson State) Reb: 11 (Liberty), Blk: 3 (3 times)

PF- Ekene Ibekwe (6'9, 215, SO) – A long frame and good athleticism make Ibekwe a potential match up problem for any opponent. His long wing span and good quickness allow him to score in and around the paint, though he's yet to build up enough strength to battle stronger opponents inside. Defensively he can be pushed around inside, but has enough spring to recover and block a number of shots.

This year Ibekwe has been a polar forward instead of a power forward. That is, he's either really good, or really bad on the offensive side of the ball, though he's been relatively consistent on the glass, when given a chance to get his legs under him. On the season he's connecting for 8.5 points and a team high 6.7 rebounds per game.

Against some of the bigger front lines he's had a ton of trouble, disappearing against North Carolina (3 pts, 1 reb, 5 fouls), and Temple (3 pts, 2 reb), though he did turn in solid performances against Wake Forest (9 pts, 7 reb) and Virginia (12 pts, 6 reb).

Season Highs: Pts: 21 (Wisconsin) Reb: 13 (American), Blk: 6 (Liberty)

SF- Nik Caner-Medley (6'8, 235, JR) – Aside from Gilchrist, Caner-Medley is Maryland's most dangerous player, and some may argue he holds that title alone. With the size of a power forward, he has the skill set of a big time wing. He's able to hurt you from the perimeter or off the dribble, and isn't afraid to battle for junk baskets inside.

Last season he seemed to get worn down as the Terps' made their miracle run through the ACC, scoring a combined nine points against Wake and Duke before fouling out in just 27 minutes against the Blue Devils in the finals. This year he's worked hard to continue to diversify his offensive attack and is the team's leading scorer (16.9) and third best rebounder (5.6). Despite working on his perimeter game over the course of the last year, he remains just a 32% shooter from the perimeter, though he can get extremely hot as evident from his 4-of-8 showing in a win over Virginia.

Defensively he can get into trouble against smaller and quicker players who can go around him, though he's improved his lateral quickness since last year.

Season Highs: Pts: 35 (Temple) Reb: 10 (NC State), Ast: 5 (Memphis) Stl: 5 (Liberty)

SG- Chris McCray (6'5, 180, JR) – McCray's calling card as a sophomore was certainly not on the offensive end, but on the defensive side of the ball. And, with Gary Williams patrolling the sidelines, that counted for a lot when it came to earning a spot on the floor. So, for much of his second full season, the 6'5 scoring guard was more guard than scoring. Eventually McCray found some confidence and produced double figure performances in five of the Terps' last seven games including 20 points as Maryland rolled past UVa in the opening round of the tournament.

This season he's still a terrific on the ball defender who is usually assigned to the opposition's best perimeter threat. The difference this year has been the advancement of his offensive game as he's failed to hit double figures only three times in 16 games. On the season he's averaging 12.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. A terrific free throw shooter (91%), McCray has yet to prove a lethal threat from the perimeter where he's hitting just 27% of his attempts for the season and just three of his last 19 (16%) over the past six games.

Season Highs: Pts: 20 (George Mason) Reb: 9 (Mercer), Stl: 4 (2 times)

G- John Gilchrist (6'3, 200, JR) – Gilchrist put together a strong end to his junior season, to the tune of 62 points, 18 rebounds, and 19 assists in Maryland's ACC Title run. That three game stretch, along with similar heroics in the early NCAAs had many NBA types knocking on his door over the summer.

With terrific athleticism and a strong body, Gilchrist is the kind of lead guard Jason Williams was for Duke, albeit a "Diet" version. Still, that's good enough to be considered a lock for the first round of the NBA Draft, if not the lottery. And therein lies the troubles the junior has encountered this year.

Williams has publicly called out his point guard for being too centered on getting his stats without involving his teammates. Given the relative inexperience of the Terps' roster, Gilchrist's inability to involve his teammates has caused the Maryland offense to consist of one player and four props at times. Ideally he's a two guard, but will have to learn to be more of a true point guard before making the jump to the league according to his coach.

This season he's been tremendous on several occasions, and woeful on others. After what Williams perceived as a poor performance against North Carolina, Gilchrist was held to just nine minutes against Wake Forest as the Terps were once again hammered. Since that time he's made an effort to be more selective on offense, though it's been tough. Before the Wake game he was hoisting an average of 12 shots per game. Since being benched he's reduced that total to nine attempts per game.

Season Highs: Pts: 28 (Liberty) Reb: 13 (Florida State), Ast: 9 (George Mason)

The Reserves

Sixth man DJ Strawberry has been lost to injury, which, in theory, means more playing time for former McDonalds All-American Mike Jones (6'5, 196, SO), who was a terrific high school prospect that hasn't found favor with Williams in his early career. Perhaps the team's best perimeter threat, Jones is also a good ball handler who can get to the rim and finish. Where he is lacking, as with many young players, is the defensive end which doesn't translate into floor time under his college coach. Also spelling the backcourt is junior Sterling Ledbetter (6'4, 195, JR), a big point guard who sees the floor and plays tough defense, though he's not a true offensive threat. In the post is prized freshman James Gist (6'9, 220, FR), a long and wirery freshman with loads of potential once he grasps the game's finer points. Despite being considered somewhat "raw", Gist has been very good early on in his career, averaging seven points and nearly five rebounds in just under 18 minutes per game, though in ACC play his numbers have steadily declined. Small forward Mike Grinnon (6'6, 210, SR) is a smart player who is always in the correct position, and doesn't miss too many assignments on the defensive end. Other post help comes from Will Bowers (7'1, 245, SO) who is a big body, but little else at this point.

Game Notes:
courtesy of Duke Sports Information

This will mark the 156th meeting between Duke and Maryland with the Blue Devils leading the all-time series, 99-56. Duke has controlled the series in recent years, winning 14 of the past 19 meetings, including victories in the last three games played in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Under Mike Krzyzewski, Duke is 40-17 vs. Maryland.

The game will be televised nationally by ESPN with Mike Patrick (play-by-play), Dick Vitale (color) and Doris Burke (sideline) calling the action.

*- This marks the 21st consecutive game that Duke has entered the Maryland contest ranked among the nation's top 10 teams. Maryland has been ranked among the top 25 in 17 of those games as well

*- In its last six games, Duke is shooting .508 from the field (161-of-317), .400 from three-point range (52-of-130) and .801 from the foul line (113-of-141)

*- Duke has not allowed an opponent to shoot better than .500 from the field this season. In 10 of 15 games, opponents have shot less than .400 from the floor against the Blue Devils' defense.

*- Senior Daniel Ewing, who has played in 120 games, has been part of 103 victories at Duke

*- Duke averages more points in games played away from Cameron Indoor Stadium (85.2) than at home (80.0) this season. The Blue Devils have also shot .548 from the field in six away games vs. .451 in nine home contests

Betting Line:



Maryland -77

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