The last time No. 8 Maryland (22-4, 13-2 ACC) and No. 5/4 Duke (25-1, 15-0 ACC) met, the Blue Devils won by a comfortable 15 points and were led by the heroics of junior guard Chelsea Gray and her career-high 28 points in Durham, N.C. on Feb. 11. It is an understatement to say that when the teams meet again at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Comcast Center in College Park, Md. the Terrapins are going to be hungry for revenge.
And they are 1 for 1 so far when getting a second shot at a team they’ve lost to this year, having annihilated North Carolina, 85-59, at Comcast on Jan. 24 to avenge a three-point loss on Jan. 3 in Chapel Hill, N.C..
The Terps can expect a big crowd Sunday as fans will certainly be excited to see the outcome of this one between two top-10 teams, but the many attendees will also have the opportunity to contribute to a good cause.
Sunday is designated as the Team Tyler game and will be focused on leukemia awareness and registering as many bone marrow donors as possible. Maryland’s first Team Tyler game came shortly after head coach Brenda Frese’s five-year-old son Tyler was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010.
To find out more about Tyler’s progress and what the Team Tyler Foundation – founded by some of Frese’s former players – has been doing to help, check out Daniel Gallen’s article from Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback.
The last time Maryland and Duke met at Comcast, it came down to a last-second block. Here are some of the factors at play heading into this next chapter of the rivalry, which together could very well add up to another nail-biter:
Chelsea Gray out
Obviously the biggest storyline coming into this game is the season-ending injury suffered by Chelsea Gray on Feb. 17 against Wake Forest.
Gray is the ACC leader in assists at 5.4 per game and steals at 3.6 per game. She also averaged 12.6 points before going down against the Deacons with a dislocated right kneecap that the Blue Devils initially hoped would only keep her out for the remainder of the regular season. However, Gray later found out that she has to have surgery and therefore will be out for the postseason as well.
Duke was able to finish off the Wake game with a win even though Gray missed the majority of the game and they also beat No. 19/20 Florida State Friday night. However, they have yet to go on the road or face a team of the caliber of Maryland without Chelsea.
Here’s what Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said in an interview with M Robinson about the things Gray brings to the table – things the Blue Devils won’t have at their service Sunday:
“It’s just every facet, her ability — [she has hit] a ton of game-winners for us over her career. She’s had a ton of game-winning steals; she’s changed the flow of so many games. She just has that ability, she just really competes.”
Gray is clearly a special player – arguably the best player on a team that leads the ACC with an undefeated record in conference play. And when you have a player who performed so well against a particular opponent, it is difficult not have them in the rematch, especially when that opponent is Maryland, your biggest challenger in the conference.
However, there is a reason you can’t say Gray is by far the best player on Duke and that is because reigning National Freshman of the Year and all-ACC first team member Elizabeth Williams is right there with her. It is unfortunate for Duke to lose Chelsea, but with Williams down low and Tricia Liston’s ridiculous 49.1 percent 3-point shooting, the Blue Devils are still very dangerous.
Tierney Pfirman back
Meanwhile, the Terps probably don’t have a lot sympathy for Duke seeing as how they had a key player in Brene Moseley go down before the season even started and another in Laurin Mincy go down in their fifth game. Both suffered season-ending ACL tears, as did their 6-7 senior center Essence Townsend.
But fortunately for Maryland, another key player that was injured was not lost for the season. Tierney Pfirman suffered the exact same injury as Gray – a dislocated right kneecap – on Jan. 19, but was able to return last Sunday at Virginia and will now be available for the most important stretch of the season.
Pfirman is just a freshman, but is one of a handful of Terps who can be that third leading scorer behind Tianna Hawkins and Alyssa Thomas on any given night. Based on Tierney’s first two game’s back from injury it looks like Frese is easing her back into things – she played seven minutes with zero points at UVA and then played 12 minutes with seven points at BC.
Even if she doesn’t play her usual 21 minutes Sunday night, Tierney adds much needed depth and the Terps have to be pleased to at least have her starting to get back in the swing of things just in time for a game they’ve had circled on their calendar all year.
Lastly, home court advantage has to be taken into account.
Maryland and Duke have split in both of the past two seasons and have done so by winning on their home floors. It wouldn’t be shocking if that trend continued on Sunday. The Terps are a perfect 12-0 at home this year and with Duke coming in as the second-to-last obstacle standing in the way of a perfect regular season in College Park, you can expect an amazing atmosphere at Comcast where a white out has been planned.
Maryland has cruised to victory in the three games they’ve had since losing to the Blue Devils, while Duke has lost the star player who propelled them to victory in the first meeting with the Terps. It just feels like Maryland has all the positive energy going in their favor – even more reason for the crowd to have an impact right from the start.