Duke in many ways was just never in this game until the end, when they managed to at least make Maryland nervous enough to think about a comeback, but that didn't last long. The game was riddled with mental errors, including a number of fast breaks following Duke baskets, passes tossed out of bounds, and perhaps no play more symbolized Duke's poor play today than Jason Williams turning his back on Steve Blake just before halftime, so that he could get instructions from Coach K. Blake, being a very alert player, swooped in, stole the ball, got a layup, and Maryland went into halftime high as a kite.
For Maryland, about the only bad news in this game was the end. Duke made too many mistakes to win the game, but Maryland made enough mistakes at the end to lose if Duke could have stayed in range.
We don't have a box score handy, but you can go down the list when it is up: Maryland got more turnovers than Duke (18-13), outrebounded Duke, dramatically outscored Duke in the paint, and while free throws attempts were basically even, Maryland hit a lot more of theirs. In fact, at one point late, it occurred to us that if Duke had matched Maryland on the line, the lead would have been about 8-10 with three minutes or so to go, and with some of the turnovers Maryland had late, who knows what could have happened.
That's all beside the point, and it's all speculative. The fact is that Maryland was more prepared, more aggressive, more determined, and better, and they absolutely deserve the win and everything that goes with it. They didn't play a good game today; they played a great game today.
For Duke, the question now is pretty basic: what do you do after getting embarrassed? Coach K said after the game that he wasn't selling his shares in Duke basketball or anything, and our experience suggests to us that for a Mike Krzyzewski team, a loss isn't the worst thing in the world. For one, it helps to focus the team on whatever weaknesses it has, and is a great learning opportunity. In this case, the immediate thing is just will, because Maryland had a lot more of it than Duke did. But we remember in 1991, after losing to UNC in the ACC Tournament by 20, Coach K told his team that they were going to win the national championship. The loss in 1990 to Vegas probably made the win in 1991 possible.
In the big picture, Duke is about 33-2 since losing to Maryland in Durham last year. It's not the end of the world, and our guess is that Skip Prosser, whose Wake team plays Duke next, is probably a bit concerned about what he's going to see. That will be key for Duke, as will the Virginia game in Charlottesville.
One final note: as much as it stinks for Duke fans to lose this game, on a humane level, we are sure that most Duke fans realize that for Byron Mouton, while this game is sweet, it cannot undo the pain he still carries after his brother was murdered earlier this season. We have kept him in our thoughts since then, and while we tend to see a bunch of guys running and dunking and what not, the fact is that everyone has a life away from the game, and for Byron, this is still a very tough time. We don't ever want to see Duke lose, and we're not huge fans of Mouton's, but we hope that this win in some small way eases the pain he has carried with him for the past several weeks.