Another ranked opponent, another tough loss.
Maryland dropped its sixth game this year to an opponent ranked in the preseason Top 25, and in this case, currently ranked. Fifth-ranked Duke swept the season series with the Terrapins and might have swept away Maryland's last, best chance for the marquee win that could help secure an NCAA Tournament bid when it thumped the Terrapins 80-62 Wednesday night.
The Terrapins dropped to 14-8 overall and back to .500 at 4-4 in the ACC. Right now, there's not another ranked team on the regular-season schedule, and Maryland needs to close out strong and and/or play well in the ACC Tournament to earn a third straight NCAA Tournament bid.
"We missed another chance," said senior forward Dino Gregory. "Now all we can do it move ahead and try to win the next one."
That would be a very winnable contest at home Saturday with Wake Forest, which recently claimed its first ACC victory.
This edition of the Terrapins would be a prohibitive favorite in that one even though they don't always play pretty. They are solid defensively and they scrap and claw to contend against top-flight opponents, though Duke had too much for them, becoming just the second Maryland opponent to shoot better than 50 percent.
Playing an inspired Blue Devils team coming off an embarrassing road loss at St. John's on Sunday, Maryland scrapped and clawed but ultimately didn't have enough offense to knock off the Blue Devils. Duke was taller and stronger inside and Maryland still doesn't have an answer for versatile Kyle Singler, who scored 22 points, 12 in the second half.
The Terrapins' three game-winning streak is history, and their hopes to catch the eye of the NCAA Tournament selection committee may be fading.
"We just have to win games. That's the bottom line," said center Jordan Williams.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Maryland's last three opponents had shot just .402 from the field and .292 from 3-point range. Then Duke rolled into the Comcast Center. The Blue Devils shot 52.6 percent from the field and 43.5 percent (10-of-23) behind the arc.
Maryland couldn't keep pace. The Terrapins shot 40 percent overall and were only 2-of-9 from 3-point range. While Duke was running and gunning, Maryland couldn't string together enough hoops to keep pace, though they did close the gap to 56-51 with 9:21 left thanks to a timely 11-2 run.
But Duke got a dunk off an inbounds play and soon afterward, Andre Dawkins knocked down two 3-pointers. Maryland scored just nine points, including two field goals, over the final seven minutes.
--Sophomore F Jordan Williams, who was held to four points and six rebounds at Virginia, bounced back with 21 points and 15 rebounds at Georgia Tech. He had six points early on, hitting his first three shots and helping Maryland to an 11-4 lead, often scoring in transition. Williams' school-record streak of 13 double-double performances was stopped at Virginia, but he came back with a vengeance against under-sized Georgia Tech. Few big men run the floor as well as Williams.
--Maryland failed to hit a 3-pointer at Georgia Tech, going 0-for-6 behind the arc and snapping a streak of 407 games with at least one 3-point field goal made.
--Maryland improved to 3-1 in ACC road games with the win at Georgia Tech, where the Yellow Jackets had previously been 3-0 in conference play and were 8-2 overall, winning by an average of 23.3 points per game in Alexander Memorial Coliseum.
BY THE NUMBERS: 18 -- Number of double-double performances (points and rebounds) Jordan Williams has put together in 21 games this season. Besides the school record 13 in a row, that overall figure leads the nation. Morehead State's Kenneth Faried has 17.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The ACC has won five of the last 10 national championships, so don't tell me we're a weak league. I believe (ACC teams won NCAA titles) the last two years, the last time I checked. I believe (Maryland) beat the last two national champions, the last time I checked. But everybody's afraid to say that around here, for some reason." -- Coach Gary Williams.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--vs. Wake Forest, Feb. 5
KEY MATCHUPS: The Terps took a 74-55 win at Wake on Jan. 12. Cliff Tucker had a season-high 21 points and Maryland limited the Deacons to 25.8 percent shooting from the field. Wake, which picked up its first conference win Jan. 29 against Virginia, has a little momentum but the Deacs will have to do a much better job at both ends to contend at Maryland.
FUTURES MARKET: Freshman guard Terrell Stoglin, struggling earlier this month, has shifted back into gear of late as the Terps' starting point guard. He had 13 points and four rebounds, and was 7-for-7 at the line at Georgia Tech, helping steady Maryland late as the Yellow Jackets rallied. This week is important for the flashy freshman. He was just 1 of 10 from the field at Duke and only 1 of 9 at Wake Forest. He continues to mature as a player and he is important, speeding tempo and helping the offense get more easy baskets with his ability to push the ball up.
--Sophomore C Jordan Williams was again stellar Wednesday with 20 points and 10 rebounds, his second straight double-double since his school-record 13-game streak of such performances was broken. Williams also had a big night at the free throw line, hitting 12 of 16, both figures career highs.
--In two games against Duke this year, freshman guard Terrell Stoglin was just 2-of-14 from the field and had only five points. On the season, Stoglin was hitting 42 percent from the field and averaging 9.6 points.
--Williams and senior F Dino Gregory played 36 and 30 minutes, respectively, against Duke. The duo each logged more than 34 minutes in the last game at Georgia Tech, and both were over 32 minutes in the win at Virginia and over 30 in a home win over Clemson. Reserve sophomore forward James Padgett needs to step up his production and start shouldering more of the load at both ends of the court.