Pre­vi­ous meet­ing with Blue Devils serves as prime mo­ti­va­tion for Terps

The Washington Post Sunday - - COLLEGE BASKETBALL - BY GENE WANG wangg@wash­post.com

Any game against Duke is enough to el­e­vate emo­tions for the mem­bers of the eighth-ranked Mary­land women’s bas­ket­ball team. But given how badly the Ter­rap­ins lost to their bit­ter ri­val sev­eral weeks ago and a hand­ful of provoca­tive tweets re­cently from Duke Coach Joanne P. McCal­lie, Sun­day’s show­down at Com­cast Cen­ter should have an­other layer of an­i­mos­ity.

Mary­land’s play­ers re­mem­ber vividly what tran­spired at Cameron In­door Sta­dium on Feb. 11. Led by ju­nior guard Chelsea Gray’s ca­reer-high 28 points, the fifth-ranked Blue Devils pulled away for a 71-56 vic­tory in which Ter­rap­ins Coach Brenda Frese was ejected for the first time in her ca­reer.

Five days later, the Ter­rap­ins (22-4, 13-2 ACC) watched their male coun­ter­parts up­set then-No. 2 Duke, 83-81, and soon af­ter be­gan get­ting word of tweets McCal­lie posted dur­ing and af­ter the game.

“What would all th­ese venues do with­out Duke bas­ket­ball?” be­gan one tweet No. 8 Mary­land women vs. No. 5 Duke

3 p.m. ESPN2.

Ter­rap­ins 22-4, 13-2 ACC; Blue Devils 25-1, 15-0 ACC.

Com­cast Cen­ter. that sub­se­quently was deleted. “Sell fewer tick­ets, have less to dream about, & just melt away into obliv­ion. Go Duke.”

An­other tweet from McCal­lie read: “Top dog vs un­der­dog. Take the top dog sta­tus any day. Got to bring home a na­tional ti­tle or a few to truly be top dog. It’s con­crete. #Real”

Mary­land won a na­tional cham­pi­onship in women’s bas­ket­ball in 2005-06 by beat­ing Duke in the NCAA ti­tle game. The Blue Devils (25-1, 15-0) have never won a na­tional ti­tle in women’s bas­ket­ball, although this sea­son they are un­beaten in the ACC and seek­ing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tour­na­ment.

“Peo­ple talk,” Ter­rap­ins ju­nior for­ward Alyssa Thomas said. “There’s noth­ing you can say about that. Just peo­ple talk.”

Thomas, the ACC’s lead­ing re­bounder who is also sec­ond in points and as­sists, is the reign­ing con­fer­ence player of the year and was in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with Gray to win the award again. Gray may have moved ahead given her per­for­mance against Mary­land, but the ACC’s leader in as­sists per game (5.4) dis­lo­cated her kneecap against Wake For­est last Sun­day — one day af­ter McCal­lie’s tweets — and is out in­def­i­nitely.

Thomas and se­nior for­ward Tianna Hawkins, the ACC’s lead­ing scorer and sec­ond-lead­ing re­bounder, com­bined to miss 23 of 30 shots and had eight of Mary­land’s 24 turnovers in the first game against the Blue Devils. The Ter­rap­ins also at­tempted half as many foul shots in a rugged af­fair that had Frese dis­pleased with the of­fi­ci­at­ing, es­pe­cially down the stretch, caus­ing her to draw a dou­ble tech­ni­cal that re­sulted in her dis­missal with less than four min­utes to play and Mary­land trail­ing, 59-50.

“We really want this one,” said Ter­rap­ins fresh­man guard Chloe Pavlech, whose in­au­gu­ral game against Duke in­cluded a sea­son-high nine turnovers. “We’re very hun­gry for it. The last time we lost at Cameron, it was pretty crazy, and we talk about Coach Frese, her pas­sion for us, and really we want to play this game for her.”

Also at stake is any op­por­tu­nity for Mary­land to win the reg­u­lar sea­son ACC ti­tle. The Ter­rap­ins trail Duke by two games, but with­out Gray, it’s un­clear if the Blue Devils will be able to win out to se­cure the top seed in the ACC tour­na­ment.

Mary­land is as­sured of a bye in the first round of the tour­na­ment that be­gins March 7 in Greens­boro, N.C. With a reg­u­lar ro­ta­tion of eight play­ers and only nine on the ac­tive ros­ter be­cause of in­juries to two starters and a re­serve, the Ter­rap­ins have be­come ac­cus­tomed to work­ing with de­pleted num­bers but prob­a­bly would be hard-pressed to with­stand four games in as many days as they try to re­peat as ACC tour­na­ment cham­pi­ons.

“I tend to tune out neg­a­tiv­ity,” Frese said, “so I haven’t really given any thoughts to those tweets. I think what I fo­cus on is just our team and our pro­gram and mak­ing us as good as we can.”

GERRY BROOME/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In Mary­land’s 71-56 loss to Duke at Cameron In­door Sta­dium ear­lier this month, Terps Coach Brenda Frese was ejected for the first time in her ca­reer.

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