SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) It took traveling across the country for a couple of old ACC foes to be reunited.
So much for conference realignment getting in the way of a good rivalry like Duke and Maryland.
”It’s a little added motivation that we’ll be able to play Duke, but they’re just another team in our way to the championship,” Maryland guard Laurin Mincy said. ”The Duke and Maryland rivalry, it’s always competitive.”
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The top-seeded Terrapins will take on the No. 4 seed Blue Devils on Saturday in the round of 16, just the second time in 80 previous matchups that Duke and Maryland will get together in the NCAA Tournament.
The previous time they faced off in the NCAAs was the 2006 national championship game, won by the Terrapins in overtime to claim their only title.
While Saturday’s meeting – the first since Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten – doesn’t have a title at stake, it’s still special.
”A really, really great thing,” Duke coach Joanne McCallie said. ”Certainly there are times of probably animosity and all the things that happen with rivalries, but I just feel like sometimes I feel like everybody’s Duke’s rival anyway from that standpoint. So I think it was a great thing.”
For much of the past decade, before the Terrapins’ move, the quality of the Duke-Maryland rivalry was on par with any other in the ACC. Maybe not the intensity of Duke against North Carolina, but the quality was certainly there.
The all-time series record is 41-39 in favor of the Blue Devils. In 22 of the past 25 meetings, both teams have been ranked in at least one of the major polls, including the last ACC meeting between the pair, an 84-63 Duke blowout in February 2014.
Now they get the opportunity to be reacquainted with a spot in a regional final at stake.
”I was extremely excited to be a part of that rivalry,” Maryland’s Lexie Brown said. ”And for us to be able to bring it back, especially in March here in the tournament is extremely exciting. My one and only Duke experience left a horrible taste in my mouth, so we’re really excited to redeem ourselves.”
Coming in, Maryland (32-2) has won 26 straight games, its last loss coming against Notre Dame the first week of December. The Terrapins ended the undefeated run of Ivy League champion Princeton with an 85-70 win in the round of 32.
Duke (23-10) stumbled at the end of the season, losing four of six before the NCAAs began. The Blue Devils then squeaked past No. 13 seed Albany 54-52 in the first round before knocking out Mississippi State.
”Obviously interesting to have to come all the way out here to the Northwest to be able to play this matchup,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said.
Here are other things to watch for Saturday:
EASY SCOUTING: It’s been more than a year since the teams have seen each other, but putting together the scouting report for both was easier than facing a completely unfamiliar team. Maryland’s four leading scorers – all averaging in double figures this season – all played during that February 2014 meeting. Duke is a little bit more of an unknown with leading scorer Elizabeth Williams the only player who had significant minutes when it last faced the Terrapins. ”It’s pretty rare that you meet teams in the NCAA Tournament that you have seen. And we have been fortunate to see two teams, Albany then Maryland,” Duke’s Ka’lia Johnson said. ”It’s kind of an advantage for us. We know this team pretty well.”
WHAT BENCH?: Depth is just an idea for Duke. The Blue Devils have seen most of their bench thinned. Lynee Belton and Oderah Chidom were lost to injuries and Sierra Calhoun transferred. For most of the season, Duke has used eight players at most. They’re also young – one of two teams in the Sweet 16 with two freshmen in their starting lineup. ”It has challenged us just at different junctures. We have had to really be mature about the way we play the game,” McCallie said.
FOND MEMORIES: Frese has fond memories of playing in Spokane even if her previous trip here with the Terrapins ended in an Elite Eight loss to Stanford. When Maryland was a No. 1 seed in 2008, Frese had just given birth to her twin boys. Her sons are now 7 years old and the Terrapins are back trying to go one step further than their last visit.