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Notorious for their passion, yelling until their vocal cords ware this and they have exhausted every word and chant in their vocabulary, year-in and year-out Maryland fans give their team a home-court advantage most college basketball teams could only dream of.
But when you try to censor the Comcast Center faithful, you are taking away the element of that sixth man on the court. Never was it needed more on this night, when Duke walked into the building only to deliver blow after blow to the Terrapins. Punch for punch, round after round, this match lasted deep into the final minutes before Duke provided a knock-out blow. They prevailed, 80-62.
Much like a fighter, Maryland kept coming out of its corner, hungry, willing to muscle out one more round. Enough was enough though, said Duke forward Kyle Singler, who with every punch the Terps landed answered right back with an even stronger jab of his own.
Singler led all scorers with 22 points, though none proved more important than the three straight buckets that fell with under 14 minutes remaining in the second-half, helping to negate a run by the relentless Terps. For every action, a reaction, yet there was no science for stopping Singler.
"He played well and hit shots. He is one of the best players in the country. That's what a player like that does in crunch time. He hits shots. I give him a lot of credit for the way he played tonight," Williams said. Williams' 20 points led Maryland, but were short only of Singler's effort on the night.
Entering Wednesday night's action, Singler was 11 points shy of surpassing Danny Ferry as the fifth all-time on Duke's career scoring list. In doing so, he also moved past Wake Forest great Len Chappell for 19th on the Atlantic Coast Conference career scoring list. Singler is one of only two players to record 1,900 points, 800 rebounds, 300 offensive rebounds, 300 3-PT field goals, 200 assists, 100 blocks and 100 steals in a Duke uniform.
Timely baskets seemed contagious for the men donning royal blue jerseys. Sharp-shooting guards Andre Dawkins and Nolan Smith had their chance to play hero. After Maryland closed the gap at halftime to seven, a well-rested Smith scored five points to open up the second half en route to a 7-1 run, one that would bring the Duke lead back to double-digits.
Dawkins, who is shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc on the season, knocked down his third three-pointer of the game, part of a 9-3 run by the Blue Devils after Jordan Williams helped bring his team within five. Five points from Dawkins helped expand the lead one last time, creating enough separation to put this game out of reach for the Terrapins.
We're keying on two of the their great scorers, so when the others start making shots it takes away your focus from Singler and Smith because they are knocking down threes and that hurts us a lot," senior guard Adrian Bowie admitted. Bowie scored 11 points with five assists and four boards in his final home game against Duke.
Seemingly frustrated, Bowie added, "They're great shooters. That's what they do."
Maryland initially faltered in the first half, when after they held a 16-15 lead was outscored 23-7. During that span, Smith and Singler watched from afar as Dawkins, Seth Curry and Tyler Thornton knocked down four three-pointers, providing all the offense Duke needed to slide past the Terps.
It was a first half where Duke shot 50 percent from the field and from the three-point stripe. Conversely, Maryland shot worse than 39 percent in that half. However, it seemed as if the Terps could not buy a bucket while Duke exploded.
Head coach Gary Williams said his team lacked energy out of the tunnel, similar to their loss home loss against Virginia Tech. As expected, Duke came out firing, as they were coming off a lopsided loss to St. John's team. Duke has not lost to back-to-back unranked foes since 2008.
"We did a very poor job defensively against a team on different things. [Kyle] Singler there in the second half really hurt us when he got loose and we had made a little bit of a run. It's a team thing. You have to get ready to play. You have to believe you can win that game and that's what we have to work on," Williams said following the game.
Williams went on suggest the blame could rest upon not only the youth of this team but the poor leadership on behalf of the seniors to energize the team.
The loss was Maryland's eighth on the season, and perhaps their last chance to earn a signature win for their post-season resume. Entering the game, the Terps found themselves in a four-way tie in the somewhat mediocre ACC. The team's sense of urgency is now, more than ever, at a season-high, and rightfully so. They will look to rebound Saturday when they host Wake Forest at 1 p.m.