The Maryland Terrapins surmounted a majorbarrier Saturday night. They defeated then-No. 7 Duke in Durham, N.C., for their first Atlantic Coast Conference road victory in two years. Tonight, they will have an opportunity to show if that sort of away-from-home victory will be a common occurrence.
The Terrapins (10-4 overall, 3-1 in the ACC), who received votes in this week's Associated Press top 20 poll, will face Virginia at University Hall in Charlottesville, starting at 7:30.
"Rankings are rankings," Maryland Coach Bob Wade said. "I'm very happy about it, but rankings change week to week. It's nice to see our name mentioned with those sorts of teams, but we're not going to jump overboard."
The Georgetown Hoyas, having left New England with Big East Conference losses to Providence and Boston College, would like to get their heads above water again when they meet St. John's tonight at Capital Centre, starting at 8 (ESPN).
Elsewhere, George Mason will play William and Mary at Patriot Center, starting at 8 p.m.
The 15th-ranked Hoyas are 11-3 overall, 1-2 in the Big East after losing last Wednesday to the Friars, 78-74, and Saturday to the Eagles, 68-66.
Charles Smith is leading Georgetown in scoring with an average of 13.9 points per game. Perry McDonald (13.4) and Mark Tillmon (13.1) are the other two Hoyas averaging in double figures.
The Redmen (10-3, 1-2) were very close to being 0-3 in the league Saturday night. They defeated Seton Hall, 71-70, when the Pirates' John Morton missed a jumper with four seconds left. Shelton Jones, who scored 21 points against Seton Hall, leads St. John's in scoring (18.4 points per game) and rebounding (9.1).
St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca this season brought in two players from San Jacinto (Tex.) Junior College and both have provided significant help. Michael Porter, a 6-foot-1 guard from Alexandria, is the Redmen's second-leading scorer with 12.3 points per game; he also is averaging 3.3 assists. Greg (Boo) Harvey is the other San Jacinto product and he is the other Redman scoring in double figures (11.5 points per game); he leads St. John's in assists (4.4 per game).
Maryland's victory Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, one of the toughest places for road teams to win in the ACC, left many surprised.
"I would have to say I was," Virginia Coach Terry Holland said. "To go to Cameron and play well is tough enough. It's harder to play well and win. Maryland is a team of experience and inexperience that had to blend together. Bob has done an excellent job with the guys he recruited and the guys recruited by Lefty Driesell. The mix has been productive. The question was how good are they, and they pretty much answered that question Saturday night."
The Cavaliers' difficulties have stemmed from a lack of height and experience in the front court. Sophomore center Bill Batts, who averaged just 10.3 minutes per game last season, is the tallest starter at 6-8, with 6-5 senior Mel Kennedy and 6-6 freshman Kenny Turner starting at forward. Kennedy is Virginia's leading scorer at 16.1 points per game.
"In almost every game, inside matchups are a concern," Holland said. "It's more so with Maryland. It's not like you can get help off the perimeter because of their back court strength. A lot of times you can get help from the guards, but in this case, you're not able to do that."
Holland has experience and talent at guards. Senior John Johnson, who made the game-winning basket in Virginia's game against Clemson Jan. 10 by dribbling the length of the court to score with one second left, is the Cavaliers' second-leading scorer with an average of 15.9 points per game. Junior Richard Morgan is averaging 11.9 points and four rebounds per game.
The Terrapins have used three, and occasionally four guards, in the game at the same time. Wade may use that lineup to counter Virginia's strength at guard.
"We'll have to see how the game goes, but if we are able to rebound with three guards, I would not hesitate to go with it," Wade said. "But we have to contain Kennedy and Turner and Batts. If we can negate them with three guards, then we'll use it."
The Terrapins' front court players have more height, and arguably more talent, than Virginia's. But by using three guards, Wade gains flexibility. Rodney Walker still is hobbling with a sprained ankle. He has practiced some this week, but isn't likely to be a factor tonight. That leaves Dave Dickerson as the only reserve forward.
Regardless of how many guards are in the game, Wade said he doesn't want his team to look too much for the outside shot. He felt that when the Terrapins fell behind against North Carolina last week, they hurt themselves further by taking three-point shots.
"The more we took," Wade said, "the deeper we dug ourselves."