Stopping Smith will be critical for Maryland against No. 1 Duke
On his radio show Thursday night, Maryland coach Gary Williams was asked several questions about playing at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium. Each answer came with a reminder that the building is difficult because of the team that resides there.
On Sunday when Maryland travels to Durham, it will be one of the most formidable Duke squads Williams has faced. The defending NCAA champion Blue Devils (14-0) are ranked No. 1 and hold the nation's longest winning streak (24 games).
In addition to being the hottest team in college basketball, Duke boasts the hottest player. Senior guard Nolan Smith has taken control after a toe injury to sensational freshman Kyrie Irving. In each of his last three games, the 6-foot-2 guard has set a career high in points.
Last week at UNC-Greensboro, Smith had 26 points. On Sunday against Miami, he tallied 28. On Wednesday against UAB, he rang up 33. In his last five games, Smith is shooting 61.3 percent from the floor and has hit 12 of 19 3-pointers (63.1 percent).
|Maryland at Duke|
|When » Sunday, 8 p.m.|
|Where » Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham, N.C.|
|TV » FSN|
|Radio » 980 AM|
|Duke ranks No. 2 in the nation in scoring (89 ppg), No. 7 in field goal shooting (50.1 percent) and No. 3 in 3-point shooting (43.8 percent). With Kyrie Irving, the Blue Devils' margin of victory was 24.5 points per game. Without him, the margin has swelled to 29.3. Nolan Smith (Oak Hill) is another in a long line of standouts coach Mike Krzyzewski has mined from the Washington area, including Grant Hill (South Lakes), Johnny Dawkins (Mackin), Danny Ferry (DeMatha) and Tommy Amaker (W.T. Woodson).|
"He's just attacking," senior forward Kyle Singler told reporters. "He just has a killer instinct. Put anyone on him, and he's gonna get by."
With Irving (17.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg) in the lineup, the duo shared playmaking duties. When Irving (17.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg) was hurt a month ago against Butler, Smith took over the point guard position full-time. Amazingly, he has improved in virtually every statistical category -- points (17.7 to 22.2 pg), assists (5.0 to 6.3 pg), rebounds (4.4 to 5.5), turnovers (3.5 to 3.2 pg) and steals (0.9 to 1.3 pg).
"I think Nolan is playing as well as anyone in the country," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the UAB win. "There wasn't a phase of the game where he didn't play at the highest level."
When Williams faces a high-scoring guard, he typically rotates defenders. He'll have a lot of options Sunday between quick Terrell Stoglin and Adrian Bowie, physical Pe'Shon Howard and Sean Mosley, and long Cliff Tucker.
Maryland (10-4) often rises to the challenge of knocking off a high-flying Duke squad. Three of the last five times they have played Duke when the Blue Devils were ranked No. 1 or undefeated, the Terps have won.
Maryland also is the last team to defeat Duke, 79-72, on March 3.
Smith was asked Wednesday night if he remembered the game and had Sunday circled on his calendar.
"Not at all," Smith said. "I don't remember any losses from last year since, at the end, we ended up getting the ultimate prize."
But then, with his memory jogged, Smith relented.
"Now that you mention it, I do remember," Smith said. "That will be in the back of my mind. They stormed the court on us."