From the Stands: Maryland-95, Duke-87

Everything seemed to be going right for Duke. Up 12 with just under four minutes remaining, the Blue Devils appeared poised to collect a sixth straight ACC Championship. Then it happened. Duke looked out of sync, and generally lost as Maryland fought back to steal the title in overtime. <I>TheDevilsDen.com</I> takes a look at what went right, wrong, and looks ahead to the NCAA Tournament.

What Went Right:

When Duke went inside, they got relatively good production from Shelden Williams and Luol Deng. Both players proved able to score almost at will when the ball came inside. Williams shot 4-of-6 from the field while Deng finished 5-of-9 from the field. Both Williams and Deng also showed up on the boards pulling down 12 and 16 rebounds respectively, a career high for the fabulous freshman.

The Blue Devils also showed the ability to rally against a talented opponent after falling behind by 11 early on in the game. They also showed the ability to play relatively well considering the tired legs for much of the second half. Also the balanced scoring of five players reaching double figures was a positive the team can build on going forward.

What Went Wrong:

Simply put this was a total collapse mentally, on par with the 1998 Regional Final against Kentucky, and the 2001 regular season game in Los Angeles against Stanford. There is no point debating or assigning individual blame here as each player on the floor had a few lapses that contributed to the overall result.

While many are quick to bash the idea of going to a spread offense that runs time off the clock, the real problem on this day was the ability to execute in that offense. Duke simply didn't make the necessary plays to get open looks, and even had trouble advancing the ball.

From the four minute mark the Blue Devils turned the ball over twice, and missed nine shots. To compound those problems, Maryland was able to get a pair of offensive rebounds, one on a missed free throw. To make matters much worse, Duke missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and then missed three additional attempts, which would have put the game away.

In fact the performance from the free throw line was among the worst this season, if not the worst. After the game Coach Krzyzewski said he had no explanation for the missed free throws, that it was just the "human factor" of things. Still hitting just 15-of-31 attempts when your opponents are knocking down 32-of-44 won't lead to success in March. It proved as much today.

While there's no point in complaining about the performance of the officials in today's game, it should be noted that this game seemed to really take a turn for the worse for the Devils when Shelden Williams picked up a few fouls that seemed to be of the phantom variety. At least three post game analysts for CBS and ESPN have called his fifth foul a "terrible call". However Williams should have gotten away from Gilchrist on that drive, which would have preserved a one point lead heading down the stretch. Still, many are looking for the foul on that play.

Player of the Game:

Freshman Luol Deng played as well as could be expected in his first ACC Championship game. The 6-foot-8 frosh scored 14 points while grabbing 16 rebounds. The main criticism would be his 3-of-8 performance from the free throw line.

Next Play:

This loss will do one of two things to this group of Blue Devils. It will either break them and set them up for an early round exit, OR it'll teach them a lesson and we won't see any more let downs during ‘winning time'. If there are any more of those, then Duke will have to wait until October and November to remedy that kind of thing.

The NCAA Tournament draw wasn't kind for Duke yet again as the likely second round match up looks to be against a very talented and dangerous Arizona team which was highly ranked in the preseason. The key for the Devils will be keeping Shelden Williams in the ball game and getting J.J. Redick on track after a particularly rough ACC Tournament from him.

If Williams is on the bench with foul trouble early in any game past the opening round, then Duke is in real danger of being sent home. Now would be an ideal time for Shavlik Randolph to step up and demand the ball and earn a much greater role in this team's success.


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