From The Stands: Duke vs. Maryland

Duke lost its third game of the season on Wednesday night, by a 99-92 tally against Maryland in College Park. While there was certainly some questionable whistles here and there, the fact remains that Duke just didn't execute down the stretch and ultimately was knocked from the ACC title race for the time being. <I>TDD</I> examines the match up and offers opinions.

What Went Wrong

- As has been the case in the 18 victories, it all starts with defense. When the Blue Devils are at their best it's because the defensive effort is among the best in the country. For much of Saturday the D was missing from Duke. While freshman DeMarcus Nelson locked up Nik Caner-Medley while he was in, few other Blue Devils did much on the defensive end as Maryland got open look after open look early on. When the defense was stepped up early in the second half, Duke quickly rolled to a nine-point lead.

- Despite a terrific performance from Shelden Williams, the Blue Devils all but forgot about Williams on the offensive end during several key stretches. When he was fed the ball inside, Williams either scored (8-of-10) from the field or drew a foul and went to the line (five times). However, when Maryland began making their comeback, it was because Duke tried to match perimeter jumpers instead of staying steady and feeding the big guy in the paint.

- Instead of going inside, Duke continued to allow the backcourt to hoist shot after shot. While this is, unquestionably, one of the team's strengths, the shots were not falling on this night, and thus the Blue Devils went four plus minutes without connecting from the field…twice.

- The loss of Shavlik Randolph to foul trouble in such a short time period hurt tremendously. The Blue Devils got just 11 minutes out of their only other ACC-caliber big man before he drew the attention of the referees the allotted five times. While Randolph is making the correct defensive reads and is stepping in to take charges, he has to be aware of the foul situation more than he was. Midway through the second half with Williams saddled with four fouls, Randolph came in with four of his own already in the books. Instead of backing off on the defensive end, he rotated over and correctly tried to draw the charge. Unfortunately he didn't get the call and was done for the game at the 6:33 mark. Once he went to the bench, Duke was left with an ineffective Williams, and little rebounding prowess as Maryland owned the boards, 50-41.

- Without Randolph and Williams inside to grab rebounds and alter shots, the Terps had open season with point blank looks, scoring 44 points in the paint compared to just 30 for the Blue Devils.

- Another facet of the usual offensive scheme that was non-existent was the ability to move the ball and make the extra pass. Sure it's cliché to mention the extra pass these days, but it's very effective, and with Duke's love of the jump shot, critical to the team's success. On Saturday it was never made, nor attempted. Instead, the Blue Devils settled for several one on one situations, which included bringing the ball over half court, taking the defender off the dribble and pulling up. More often than not, it was a one and done attempt.

- Though he was responding to an elbow to the face from Ibekwe, Daniel Ewing's reaction and subsequent technical foul was the turning point in this game. Not only did it revive the Terps, it also saddled the senior with an unnecessary foul, which would come back to bite him later on in terms of defensive intensity, and overall aggression.

- While ESPN is unquestionably the leader in Sports Programming. They may want to check their facts. Throughout the night Vitale and his team were talking about Maryland being the first team to sweep Duke since 1995. However, research shows that Duke was swept by North Carolina, and Tim Duncan's Wake Forest during the 1997 season. In their rush to declare Duke and Maryland as part of rivalry week, the guys in Bristol forgot to check the record books.

What Went Right:

- Shelden Williams again proved that few teams in Division One play have a big guy who can match him inside. Imagine what his numbers would look like if Duke looked to him more than once every few times down court. With limited touches inside, Williams still managed to log 23 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks on this night.

- Freshman DeMarcus Nelson played terrific defense on Maryland's Caner-Medley throughout the game. With his long arms, quick feet, and muscular frame, Nelson is evolving into a very good defender. His offense is still coming around, and he's having trouble finishing in the lane, where it seems he's more interested in getting a foul drawn than finishing the play, but he's certainly making a case to continue starting. The main thing hold him back is likely his inability to find the open man in the offense, however that'll come with more experience.

- Despite finishing the game with Redick, Nelson, Ross Perkins, Patrick Johnson, and Patrick Davidson on the court, Duke managed to force overtime and never quit despite that lineup, which would do well in the Intramural league, but not the ACC. It was eerily reminiscent of former soccer player Jay Heaps running the point in the ACC Tournament a few years back. Say what you will about the officiating, but the bottom line is Duke was playing with very little talent at the end, and Maryland wasn't completely comfortable until the final minute of the game despite having their entire rotation available.

- The fact that Reggie Love is now dressing out and is on the verge of returning to action is a positive for the Blue Devils as they certainly need more help in the post. Love was ready to come in last night, but Coach K held off, not wanting to risk another injury. Sooner than later he'll be back though.

- Speaking of K, it's a fair bet to assume he'll take this game and use it to motivate his players going forward. On Saturday he was as intense as he's been all year, and hopefully he'll translate that into his players as they play out their final regular season games and beyond.

Player of the Game:

By once again being limited only by the backcourt's unwillingness to continually feed him the ball, Shelden Williams was the best player on the floor on Saturday. Another double-double (23 & 16) easily earns him TDD Player of the Game honors.

Next Play:

Duke returns to action on Thursday night when they head to Blacksburg, Va to face the Virginia Tech Hokies. While many point to the 100-65 shellacking the Hokies received in Cameron Indoor, the Blue Devils must be aware that this is a snake pit of a game. The Hokies are fighting for their post season lives and will certainly be bitter after the way the game in Cameron went down, with several of their players experiencing similar foul problems to that of Duke against Maryland. Hopefully Duke will rebound strongly, and look to make a statement instead of just attempting to coast.


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