Maryland swingman Dez Wells grew up a Duke fan in Raleigh, N.C., watching legends like Jay Williams, Shane Battier and Luol Deng. He played at Cameron Indoor Stadium once during high school, but never attended a Duke game. So yes, he’s a little anxious to play against the top-ranked Blue Devils on the road Saturday.
“It’s going to be tough, but we have to come out ready to play,” Wells said Thursday. “Our history, we haven’t come out ready to play on the road, and that’s something we have to change, and there’s no greater opportunity to do it than against Duke at Cameron.”
Coach Mark Turgeon wanted his Maryland men’s basketball team to become a bunch of road warriors, but a limited sample size this season reveals a group struggling away from Comcast Center. Only in a 20-point blowout at Northwestern did the Terrapins truly excel outside College Park. They did not look sharp in true road games at Miami and North Carolina, and dropped their season opener against Kentucky in Brooklyn, N.Y. Even the BB&T Classic game at Verizon Center against George Mason wasn’t exactly pretty.
And odds are Maryland will meet an extremely motivated, angry Blue Devils team, fresh off a historic 90-63 loss at Miami on Wednesday night. Duke shot a miserable 29.7 percent from the field and 17.4 percent from beyond the arc. Seth Curry, typically one of the nation’s best shooters, missed all 10 field goal attempts. It was the worst defeat by the nation’s No. 1 team in 45 years.
“I think our guys will be excited because it’s the number one team in the country,” Turgeon said Thursday. “We have a lot of new players who haven’t been in that building, so it’ll be excited to play in that building. More importantly we’re coming off a road game where we weren’t very good in the first half, so I imagine our guys will be a lot more in-tune and ready to go. Obviously Duke’s going to be ready to go after what happened last night. So we’ll really have to be ready and match their intensity early, weather the storm and hang around. I expect them to be excited.”
Turgeon didn’t watch the Duke-Miami game and said he probably wouldn’t watch it on tape, putting more stock in the Blue Devils’ home games than a road letdown in Coral Gables, Fla.
The Terps will have their hands full with Mason Plumlee, who is squarely in the discussion for national player of the year and a double-double machine. Alex Len should be the primary defender on Duke’s biggest post threat, but Turgeon mentioned Shaquille Cleare as another strong body to throw at Plumlee, who averaged 19.5 points and 11 rebounds in two games against Maryland last season.
“I don’t know how many guys we’ve played against like that. Plumlee’s good. He just whipped us last year, both games,” Turgeon said. “So hopefully we can do a better job. We’ve got big Shaq to throw on him now too this year. Whether Shaq can do it, we’ll see. But that’s another big body we can throw at him.”
Duke is a vastly different team without injured forward Ryan Kelly, but still poses a concerning matchup situation by virtue of the immense talent within its starting lineup. Even with his dreadful outing against the Hurricanes, Curry is still shooting 43.3 percent from three-point range on 97 attempts, nearly 30 more than any Maryland player.
“He’s smart,” Turgeon said. “He knows how to use screens. They do a good job screening for him, they do a good job running stuff for him. He’s got the 3, he’s got off the dribble, he get to the foul line, shot fake you and jump into you, do all that stuff. He’s just a smart basketball player who knows how to play.
“He’s got players all around him, especially when Kelly’s not hurt. That’s three shooters around him plus Plumlee. That’s pretty good, so you’ve got space to do what you do. They run a lot of things for him, put him in position to be a good player. Until the injury, I know against Georgia Tech he made big shots when the game’s on the line, built a lead up. He’s had a heck of a year. Kid’s really played well for them.”
Wells and Nick Faust could get some minutes defending curry, giving Seth Allen a chance to defend point guard Quinn Cook, but Turgeon said he’s counting on junior Pe’Shon Howard to lock down the younger Curry.
“I don’t know if he can guard him because the kid’s really good, but Pe’Shon’s going to lock into him and try to guard for him and get over screens and all that,” Turgeon said. “That’s where Pe’Shon’s helping us more than anything right now.”
Regardless, how the Terps handle the raucous, hostile atmosphere could dictate their chances.
“The biggest challenge, I’d just say they’re a great team overall,” Nick Faust said. “It’s a great atmosphere to play there. They have a great team there. We feel that we have to come in with a great mindset, do whatever we can to defeat them.”