A New Flavor to the Rivalry

The Terps gear up to take on the 16-3 Duke Blue Devils tomorrow at the Comcast Center.

“What do we have a big game tomorrow or something,” questioned Mark Turgeon as he walked into the packed media workroom in Comcast Center for a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “I haven't seen most of you guys since media day,” he joked. For the first year coach, it was a first taste of the all-around excitement surrounding the rivalry that is Duke versus Maryland.

“It's gonna be a good one tomorrow,” said Sean Mosley, when asked about Wednesday night's matchup with the Blue Devils (16-3, 4-1 ACC). “It's just a great feeling to have another opportunity to go against Duke at home,” he said. “For me, it's my last go around playing them and hopefully we can get the victory tomorrow night. It'd be huge for us.”

Mosley, the only member on the roster who played a prominent part in Maryland's last victory against Duke (79-72 on 3/3/2010), seemed cool and collected in the pre-Duke press conference. Yet, even the Terps' captain acknowledged that a win against a team like No. 6 Duke is becoming more and more crucial as the season wears on.

“We know we need a big win,” said Mosley. “For me, and for my team, it's another game but it's Duke versus Maryland. So, that excitement always opens my eyes up and opens everybody's eyes up around College Park.”

The Terps (12-6, 2-2 ACC) will take on a Duke team coming off of 76-73 loss to Florida State, after a Michael Snaer buzzer-beating three snapped a 45-game home court winning streak. Statistically speaking, the Seminoles win on Saturday looks to be the kiss of death for the young Terrapin team. Duke has won its last 13 games following a loss and has not lost back-to-back games since 2009. In these last 13 games following a loss, the Blue Devils have accumulated a +14.8-scoring margin.

However, the storied history between the two programs suggests that Wednesday will be anything but lopsided. The Blue Devils have won five of the nine matchups all-time at the Comcast Center, including three of the last four. Yet, six of the last ten games in the series have been decided by 10 points or less.

While it's been well documented how former Terps' coach Gary Williams would prepare himself and his teams for the bi-annual Duke matchups, there's a new man patrolling the sidelines for Wednesday's newest chapter in the series. Yet, according to Mosley, there's no doubt that Coach Turgeon understands the meaning behind the matchup. “He knows,” said Mosley. “He knows when it's a big game. Coach Turgeon played; he's been here. He's been in our seats before. So he knows when it's a big game, things start to change a little bit.”

“I knew about it,” said Turgeon of the rivalry. “I didn't watch the games but I knew about Gary, how he got all fired up for them and that was well documented in the media … A rivalry is a rivalry. It's more important to the people that are involved, and I've been in a lot of different rivalries and now, for me, this is the most important rivalry that there is. Because it means the most to our fans.”

Not coincidentally, minutes before what was Williams' favorite matchup of the year, the legendary former coach will be honored with a court-naming ceremony around 8:45 p.m. Wednesday night. A private event was held on Monday night, in which friends and former players were on hand to witness the unveiling of what will come to be known as “Gary Williams Court.” According to Williams' successor, the former Terps' coach has been nothing but helpful ever since his departure last May, after 22 seasons at the helm.

“I think my transition has been smooth because of the way he's handled it, and I appreciate that,” said Turgeon. “We had a great dinner and dedication last night for him and I was so happy to be invited and be a part of it. He's a special guy and a hell of a coach. I don't think there's any question he's on my side. He's gone above and beyond to let people know, people that really matter to our program, that he thinks I'm the right guy for this job, and that's really helped.”

In terms of living up to Williams' knack for winning the big games however, Turgeon claims to feel no added pressure. “Absolutely not,” he said. “We'll win plenty of big games. I can't promise you anything tomorrow night but we're gonna win a lot of big games. My teams win, I'm not concerned about that.”

While Williams has largely distanced himself from the program he helped build, he remains interested in the team and their progress, according to Mosley. “Here and there we text each other,” said Mosley of his former coach. “He knows I'm busy during the season. I know it's kinda hard for him and he misses it. But he texts me here and there and I text him just to check up on him and he checks up on me from time to time. It's just that relationship that we've always had.”

Hand-in-hand with the intense ACC matchups that begin in large part when students come back for spring semester, which this year happens to be on Wednesday, are the increasingly large crowds, something Turgeon has been looking forward to ever since his arrival in College Park. “I'm looking forward to it,” he said. “I hope we react the right way. It's hard to play in front of a sellout when you haven't done it all year … we already have enough problems shooting too quick. Hopefully we use the energy on defense, not on offense, and that's a message we'll try and get across to them.”

Perhaps the biggest question entering Wednesday night's matchup is the health of freshman center Alex Len, who never returned to action Saturday after hobbling off the court in the early stages of the first half against Temple with what has been diagnosed as a sprained ankle. “I don't know yet,” said Turgeon of Len's availability against Duke. “He didn't practice yesterday. He is gonna give it a shot today but it's still sore. We'll know more after practice today about where we are with Alex.”

Despite a dip in Len's recent performance (2.0 ppg, 3.25 rpg in last 4 games), the Terps' undoubtedly could use the freshman's size against the impressive Blue Devils' frontcourt. “Alex is gonna try to play on his ankle and give us his best effort and we're gonna try to battle down low, win the battle of the boards defensively and offensively and do whatever we can to help get this win tomorrow,” said junior forward James Padgett.

At this point in the season, Turgeon has made it clear that his team is still not playing to their full potential, but heading into Wednesday night has come leaps and bounds from where they were. “Am I pleased with the way we're playing right now, not really,” said the coach. “I think we're leaving a lot out there. I think our shot selection is not great. I think our execution is not very good … I just think there's a lot more in us and I'm trying to get it out as quickly as I can.”


o Chris Littman of Sporting News tweeted the following pictures of the special shoes the Terps will be wearing tomorrow night to commemorate the Gary Williams court-naming ceremony:

o https://twitter.com/#!/chrislittmann/status/161901242438791168

o Joe Yasharoff, Managing Editor at Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, tweeted a picture of the Gary Williams court signature from last night's ceremony: https://yfrog.com/user/JYash/profile

o Senior guard Sean Mosley could soon become one of only eight Terrapins to register 1,000 points (currently has 960), 500 rebounds (currently has 513), 200 assists (currently has 232) and 120 steals (currently has 132) in a career.

o Guard Terrell Stoglin continues to lead the ACC in scoring, averaging 21.2 points-per-game. Stoglin ranks fifth in the nation in scoring through Sunday's games.

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