By handing top-ranked Duke its first loss of the season, 87-72, Maryland believes it showed it is a national contender. But the No. 17 Terrapins also know that trips to North Carolina -- which defeated No. 6 Connecticut on Saturday -- and Clemson await this week.
With Maryland 1-3 in games away from Comcast Center, guard Drew Nicholas said it is important the Terrapins not get carried away by Saturday's big victory.
"We have to handle it maturely," he said.
Players always talk about not looking past any opponent and treating every opponent as a worthwhile one. However, less than 72 hours before it manhandled Duke, Maryland was physically overmatched in an 81-72 loss at Wake Forest, the Terrapins' first official road game this season. So what could explain the stunning difference in their play? Coach Gary Williams targeted the performance of his younger players.
"In college basketball now, in general, each year you probably are going to have some young guys that are going to have a big part in how you do," Williams said. "Any time you have young players, that's the history of sports, you're not going to be consistent as older players. They might be really talented, but some days they're there and some days they're not. What you're trying to do is get them to be consistent.
"Our young guys have made strides. Hopefully they can play to a certain level. And maybe they'll have some great days in addition to that."
Against Duke, Maryland's newcomers collectively had their best performance of the season. Forward Nik Caner-Medley, slumping and coming off the bench for the first time in 1 1/2 months, made a pair of critical three-pointers in the opening minutes. Point guard John Gilchrist showed his ability to take the ball to the basket and helped the Terrapins actually increase their second-half lead with starter Steve Blake out with three fouls. Swingman Chris McCray again was productive. And junior college transfer Jamar Smith gave a huge boost with his play inside.
While Calvin McCall initially struggled in his return to the starting lineup, Williams said he planned to keep McCall and senior forward Tahj Holden in the starting lineup. Freshman forward Travis Garrison, who had started the previous six games, did not play Saturday, but that was because center Ryan Randle, Holden and Smith were playing so well that Williams did not want to keep them on the bench.
It all added up to a splendid performance and a floor-storming victory. Now, the Terrapins hope to get to the point where they can count on those young players instead of just hoping for them to play well.
"We're trying to get to where we know what to expect," Blake said. "It takes a little while to get there with a new team and we're getting there. And hopefully after this we're going to expect to keep beating people."