Fans share their Maryland -Duke basketball memories

February 14, 2014
As the Duke Blue Devils and Maryland Terrapins prepare for their last ever, regular season men's basketball game as ACC foes, former players and coaches revisit the two seasons that defined a heated rivalry. (Jonathan Forsythe, Tom LeGro and Gabe Silverman/The Washington Post)

First, if you haven’t already done so, go set aside 18 minutes 59 seconds to watch the wonderful PostTV documentary that explores the Duke-Maryland rivalry at its height, during the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons. Legendary folks like Gary Williams, Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, Jay Williams, Shane Battier and others share their reflections. It’s great.

That said, what follows is more about the fans. Earlier this week, we asked readers to pass along their favorite Maryland-Duke memories. And because the final regular-season ACC matchup between the Terrapins and Blue Devils tips off in less than 36 hours, all of the responses are below. Some are long e-mails. Some are tweets. All, hopefully, will help evoke the range of emotions sure to come once the storybook closes.

JOE SMITH TAKES OVER CAMERON

THE 2004 ACC TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP

TOO MANY TO PICK

TWO OF THREE IN 2012-13

FAN FUN (OR SOMETHING)

THE STEAL

OLD SCHOOL

THINGS GREIVIS DID

DUNK

MISCELLANEOUS

@alex_prewitt Dave Neal’s screen on Nolan Smith in 2009.

— Cartoons Plural (@NaturallyKatz) February 12, 2014

MAYBE NOT THE FAVORITE MEMORY BUT THE MOST ENDURING

From reader Jordan:

I was a junior at Maryland in 2001 and attended the infamous “Gone in 60 Seconds” game. It was also my 21st birthday that night. I rarely missed a game at Cole Field House and my roommates and I were all serious basketball fans. We had hoped for a great night of fun with appropriate celebration. Instead we had the longest one mile walk home to our on-campus apartment ever. No one said a word. Heads-hung low, darkness dominated everything. All around us were streams of students walking back to their residences in shock. The funk lingered well in to the next week, as a great a feeling as it was to be a senior when the team won the National Championship the next year, I don’t remember nearly as much as I do from that awful night.

THIS IS REALLY LONG BUT A GREAT MEMORY

From reader John:

I’m going to give you a TL;DR right here because I know you’re going to get flooded with stories like mine so here you go, TL;DR: Duke vs MD, 2/16/2002, specifically the Steve Blake steal which happened right in front of my seat in the student section, and high-fiving Lonnie Baxter as he left the court after the game. As an added bonus, I guilted my girlfriend at the time to buy me a digital camera and have a few shots from the game. Whenever the team has lost a tough game over the years, I open up this shot I snapped to help make me feel a little bit better:


You probably don’t have time for the details of my firsthand account, but I typed it up anyway because it’s a slow day at the office:

I was the first student in line at Cole for the 2002 #1 Duke vs #3 MD matchup. I showed up around 4:00pm the day before the game to line up. One of several police officers outside Cole asked me if I was there for the game, and told me I had to wait across the street as they weren’t going to allow us to line up yet. When I got to the other side of the street there was a service van full of four or five other students, who I had met at previous games and who regularly showed up insanely early to get front row seats. I spoke with them for awhile as we waited.

After about 90 minutes a small crowd had gathered–maybe about 50-75 students. At one point, one of the late-comers decided to bolt across the street to get in line and an avalanche of students followed him. The police started screaming at everyone and chased us back across the street–it was pretty crazy. Tensions were a bit high because a few days earlier there had been mass pandemonium when students rushed the doors to pick-up tickets for the game after days of camping out–but that’s another story.

Ten or fifteen minutes after the first rush towards the doors the officer in charge outside Cole Field House walked over to parlay with the group of about 100 students that was now gathered on the opposite side of the street. He stressed that they were going to allow us to cross one student at a time, and that we had to walk calmly over to get in line. He pointed at me and said “I saw this gentlemen first, so you go ahead.” I paused for an instant, half-thinking of pointing out the other guys who were ahead of me, but before I could say anything my legs were already in motion crossing the street. One of the other groups who saw me started to follow before being chased back by the police again.

There were temporary railings set up in front of the double doors to the student entrance. We filled those out in the first hour. The overnight high was in the low-20s and it was insanely windy–so windy that the railings blew over a few times. There were a lot of great stories told that night, and an insane amount of anticipation. My close friends showed up around midnight and were about 50 feet behind me in line. There were also a lot of frat pledges who had been selected to save spots/seats for their prospective frat brothers in line.

At some point during the night, I don’t remember exactly when–staff came out with color-coded hospital bracelets. I don’t remember much except that ours were purple–and they were putting them on the wrists of those in line. I remember a pretty heated discussion about this from the frat pledges. The bracelets put them in a bit of a bind, because they were meant to prevent anyone from crashing the doors or cutting in line in the morning. I recall hearing one of them say “[screw] it, I don’t want to give up my seat for this frat anyway.” This game was high stakes for everyone.

Even though hardly anyone got sleep that night people were amped up that morning, giving interviews to local news crews and breaking out in sporadic cheers. There was police tape everywhere and by dawn the line wrapped all around the building. There was a dumpster right next to the student entrance. Above it there were about a dozen of these little birds on the eave of the field house. They would hop off, dive down towards the dumpster and the ground, and then at the last instant, pull up and alight onto the dumpster. The students took notice, and within a few minutes there was deafening applause for the birds–it was sort of like a football kickoff cheer, just a long “Ohhhhhhhhhh-Ahhhhhhhh” for the dive and pull-up. Every student was so excited to be there that we were cheering dumpster birds for Christ’s sake.

When they opened the doors and took my ticket I sprinted as fast as I could and managed to get all the way down to the front row center court of the student section. Within 45 minutes of the doors opening all the student seats were packed. There were so many amazing chants prior to that game. One of the highlights was probably an “un-em-ployed” chant that was started when Mike Dunleavy Sr. was walking down towards his seat. He actually gave the student section a chin flip off. It wasn’t too long after that Gary Williams came out with a house mic and spoke for about five minutes to the students–there was a lot of bad behavior the previous year and he essentially was telling everyone to stay classy.

The Blake steal to end the half occurred right in front of me, and that moment stands out sort of above the rest of the game. The roar from the student section when that layup dropped was as loud as the inside of a jet-engine. I’m sure you’ll get like 1,000 twitter followers who will cite this game and probably most of them would cite that moment as one of the most memorable. I think for people my age this was the seminal home game for MD basketball–there were a lot of other great ones that year, but for me it was definitely the Duke game on Feb. 16, 2002. My fondest personal memory will be right as the melee on that court was winding down, I found myself between Lonnie Baxter and the locker room. We are about the exact same height and our eyes met, and without thinking we gave one another a towering high five as we passed–that was probably the smoothest high-five of my life.

The crowd was electric. For all of the students, this was the pinnacle of Maryland basketball. I’ve attended a lot of memorable sporting events, but to be a student at this particular game, on this particular day, with this particular team–you really felt like you were part of something amazing. I am the most awkwardly shy person I know, but I was there, front and center, waving my hands like a madman and actually starting chants during the game. It’s a moment I’ll always cherish–one of those few memories you get in a lifetime, that if given the chance to relive it over and over, you’d pick it in a heartbeat. That may sound like hyperbole, but if it does it’s because I was still just a kid back then–and this game, in all of its glory, has become inseparable from my fond memories of college.

Sorry for blowing up your inbox with this ridiculous story you don’t have time to read, but it’s been fun typing it for me anyhow.

A VERY TOUCHING MOMENT

From reader Vicky:

You’ll probably get a lot of the obvious highlights like the steal, but there’s one lesser known moment that I think truly captures the heart of the rivalry and still gives me chills. I want to say it could have been the 2001 ACC semifinal, but I don’t remember the exact game. Juan missed the shot at the buzzer that would have won the game, and Juan met Jason (before he was Jay) Williams in the middle of the court right after. Juan told him, “You bring the best out in me.” Jason replied, “No, you bring the best out in me.”

Jason instantly became the only dookie I actually like. Even when Maryland wasn’t having a great year, playing Duke brought the best out in the players and coaches, as well as some of the best (and worst) in the fans.

TORE DOWN THE GOALPOSTS

From reader Michael:

The easy one which should be on any list about rivalry is the Steve Blake steal and layup right before halftime of the 2002 game.

But my best memory was from Spring 2000. We beat Duke at Cameron. It was my freshman year and I lived on Elkton 7. We watched the game in the the lounge. When the game was over we obviously all cheered. Everyone then gathered outside in the middle of our high rise community. People had been throwing toilet paper in the trees. Then the large group moved all together to the next community near the Dining Hall. After that the group which was several hundredths moved over to Mckeldin. Once there met up with all of south campus residents and were definitely in the thousands. Still just cheering, and some people climbed up to the 2nd floor of the outside of the building. I would say after 15 or so minutes a large group traveled back towards north campus. I just assumed that the celebration was coming to its end. We’ll a little while passes and the large group returns to The Mall. The amazing thing was they were carrying a goalpost from Bryd Stadium. We had actually tore down a goalpost following a BASKETBALL game, an AWAY BASKETBALL game. The entire group then travelled with the goalpost down The Mall with some people actually riding on top of the goalpost. We stopped traffic on Route 1 as we crossed and headed towards Frat Row. Now the group is in the multiple 1000s all on Frat Row. This is when couches began to get burned as well as the goalpost.

This is what I am pretty certain was the first “riot”. It all started as completely celebratory, which I can not say about future ones. After my 4 years at MD, this is the only “riot” I look back at and say, that was a great memory.

Sorry, I got a little long winded.

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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