Coleman, Terps learn from losses, ready to face Duke

A couple of weeks ago, Maryland's Laura Harper got in a wisecrack about how she and Crystal Langhorne did all the dirty work inside for the Terps while Marissa Coleman just looked pretty grabbing the rebounds.

Well, we had to let Coleman respond, of course. She laughed when that was relayed to her.

"Post players have it easy," said Coleman, a guard/forward who roams all over the court. "They're right there under the basket all the time.

"Seriously, they do a great job of boxing out and give me a lot of opportunities to go grab a lot of loose boards. So I give them some of the credit."

Coleman and the Terps will have another sellout crowd this Sunday as they are host to No. 1 Duke at 6 p.m. ET (Fox Sports Net). The Blue Devils handed defending NCAA champion Maryland one of its three losses this season; the others were to North Carolina at home and at Georgia Tech.

The latter two losses were back-to-back, and the defending national champs obviously were a little frustrated and even a bit worried about that.

"But after talking with each other, and our coaches and parents, we realized you do learn a lot from losing," Coleman said. "So each loss we've suffered so far, we've learned a lot.

"With Duke, we learned we just can't turn it on and off when we want to. Our defensive intensity had to be there. With North Carolina, same thing. We have to play for 40 minutes. We can't dig ourselves into a hole and then think we're going to come back and win.

"Against Georgia Tech, it was all about heart and energy. They outhustled us the whole game. Improving on all of those things doesn't happen all at once. It's a process, and we'll get there by the time ACC tournament and NCAA Tournament come around."

The Terps certainly think they've learned enough from losses. Now, they'd like to give Duke that lesson. The Blue Devils are still undefeated, and coach Gail Goestenkors was asked Friday during a teleconference whether there really was such a thing as a "good loss."

"Yes, I think there are good losses. Nobody wants to lose, but I know that we learn a great deal from our losses," Goestenkors said. "The key is if you can win and learn as much from your wins as you do from your losses. I certainly know it hurts a heck of a lot more when you lose, though."

Coleman really struggled against Duke in the Terps' 81-62 loss in Durham, N.C., on Jan. 13. She went 3-of-11 from the field and finished with six points and three rebounds.

In the 84-71 loss to the Tar Heels, she also had a rough time from the field, going 5-for-16 on the way to 13 points and seven boards. She had 17 points and seven boards in a 77-72 loss against Georgia Tech.

Coleman was the ACC rookie of the year last season and one of the primary reasons the Terps came away with the NCAA title. She had 14 rebounds in both the national semifinal against North Carolina and the final against Duke.

Has Coleman watched those games very many times on tape?

"I did a lot right after we won," she said. "But not since then. It's a different season, and I don't want to live in last season and not be able to get to that point again. Other teams have gotten better and we have to get better."

One of the ways Coleman improved was working on her strength. The 6-foot-1 sophomore is someone coach Brenda Frese depends upon to play a lot of minutes and be moving around constantly and making the most of her versatility.

"She's a tremendous competitor and puts her will on the team in terms of not being satisfied," Frese said. "In regard to her energy, she really committed herself in the offseason. She lost 10-15 pounds and gained muscle. She turned her eating habits around and got in the weight room.

"It's the first summer she's ever spent lifting weighs. She opted out of USA Basketball so she could dedicate herself to the weight room, and it's made a big difference in how long she can be on the floor."

In December against UC Santa Barbara, Coleman became the first Maryland player ever to get a triple-double: 15 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. That was truly a showcase game for just how productive Coleman can be across the stat sheet.

"I think the biggest compliment to Marissa is she can impact a game in so many ways," Frese said. "And she's got to stay active in the game whether the ball is in her hands, she's rebounding or she's defending. So that's the biggest thing. She has to stay in the game and have different kinds of impact.

"Plus, I see her bringing a lot of leadership to a team that already has some tremendous leaders."

That has been displayed, Frese said, by how the Terps reacted to the losses to North Carolina and Georgia Tech. They've won four in a row since.

"It's just having the perspective of understanding, 'Hey, we played the No. 2 team in the country and then went into Georgia Tech, where they met the challenge,' " Frese said. "It was a frustrating game, but you can't take it back. You go forward. When we've challenged our kids, the character in the locker room has been tremendous."

Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at mvoepel123@yahoo.com.