Coming off a tough loss to Wake Forest, the Blue Devils needed to come out with the kind of desperate intensity that was showcased earlier this season at Michigan State. Coach K spent most of Saturday afternoon meeting with the Cameron Crazies making sure they understood the level of intensity he expected out both his team and the crowd. Thankfully for the Devils both responded to the challenge.
After Maryland traded blows with Duke early on -- actually taking a two point lead, thanks in large part to constant dribble penetration, the Devils cranked up their defensive pressure and quickly went on a 21-5 run that put the game away. The catalyst for that run was the substitution of Sean Dockery into the lineup. As soon as he hit the floor Dockery made his presence felt with a pair of steals that were turned into quick points. From that point Duke's defense made it impossible for Maryland to start its offense. On the night the defense finished with 16 steals and five blocks.
Offensively Duke returned to the balanced attack of the 18 game win streak with six players scoring six or more points. The Blue Devils began the afternoon trying to break the stereotypes – as Redick would pump fake and then drive before dishing to a wide-open interior target. Once the interior became a concern for the Terps, Duke then move outside with Redick, Ewing, and Deng all heating up from the perimeter.
The balanced attack led to good looks, which led to Duke hitting 50% of their shots in both halves (14-of-28 in the first; 13-of-26 in the second), despite hitting just 3-of-11 from the perimeter in the second half. The hot shooting translated very well to the charity stripe in the first half (11-of-12), though it cooled in the second half (12-of-17).
What Went Wrong:
Early on the Devils had all kinds of trouble stopping dribble penetration, which led to Maryland getting a high number of easy and wide open looks at the basket. To the Devils' credit the correct adjustments were made, though early on it looked as if Maryland was going to be able to hang around.
The Blue Devils were also out-rebounded by Maryland, 38-35, including 22 offensive boards by the Terps. The good news for Duke was that Maryland couldn't convert many of those second opportunities, though heading down the stretch you can bet that many opponents will be able to finish inside.
Duke also suffered a rash of turnovers, which were a result of occasional sloppy play. Some examples would be the errant cross court pass attempts that were easily picked off. The double figure lead made these bearable, though in a close game you'd hope the offensive precision would remain at a high level. The same concern can be said of the set plays at the end of the half or in the half-court situation, though that's probably nitpicking.
Player of the Game:
Though he finished with just six points, Sean Dockery's six steals in 19 minutes of action along with his tremendous effort on the defensive end are good enough to earn the sophomore point guard TDD Player of the Game honors.
Highlight of the Game:
Shelden Williams' pair of big jams including his posterization of Fofana in the second half were easily two of the moments destined to show up on SportsCenter some time.
A non-conference tilt against a struggling Valparaiso team should give Duke a chance to experiment with some things heading into the home stretch of the ACC schedule. That final run begins Sunday in Tallahassee against Florida State, where the Devils have lost the last two meetings.
If the Blue Devils want to stay alive for a number one seed in the NCAAs, it will be imperative to win the remaining three ACC contests and then make a good run in the conference tournament. It will certainly be important to earn the top seed in the conference tournament
That success will depend on the team remaining healthy and sharp. Look for Duke to continue to develop Horvath off the bench in relief of Williams and Randolph in hopes of stealing a few extra minutes against stronger interior teams.