Duke led most of the game, but Maryland had clawed back to trail by only 63-60 with 1:35 remaining after Nik Caner-Medley hit a baseline jumper. After Duke's Shelden Williams was called for an offensive foul at the 1:05 mark, the Terps had the ball with a chance to tie for the first time in the second half.
It was time for someone to step up and make the deciding play. That player was Duke's J. J. Redick. After Maryland had worked the ball to D. J. Strawberry deep on the baseline, Redick stripped him and got the ball back for the Blue Devils. Redick then closed the game out by making four consecutive free throws, no surprise since he has only missed one this season.
The first half began as a defensive struggle. Maryland posted a 4-2 lead on hoops by Caner-Medley (who led Maryland with21 points and 8 rebounds) and Jamar Smith. Duke moved ahead 10-6 on two three-pointers and two free throws by Redick and the Blue Devils would never trail again.
Duke threatened to blow the Terps out of their own home arena when opened up a 23-12 lead with 6:44 remaining in the first half. A late Maryland run cut the margin to 35-29 and kept the Terps within reach. Coach Gary Williams said later, "I thought we had a pretty good feel at half time.
In controlling most of the first half, the Blue Devils showed that they were a far different team than the ones Maryland had soundly beaten here the last two seasons. Two years ago, the Terps out-muscled and beat Duke physically, and last year's young Devils team was intimidated by the raucous environment of the Comcast Center.
This season, Duke brought in a team that is stronger, more experienced, and more poised than Gary Williams' young Terps. That showed up most clearly in the offensive rebound totals. The Devils grabbed a staggering 24 offensive rebounds, 12 in each half. After the game, a weary and frustrated Williams said, "The glass was where the game was won. They ripped a few balls away from us that we had at least one hand on it. That's got to stop if we're going to beat a team of that level."
Despite getting killed on the boards, the Terps played well defensively, holding Duke to a season low 33.8% field goal shooting. They did not have an answer for Redick, however. Early in the second half, Redick broke open a 39-33 game when he was fouled shooting a three-pointer, made all three free throws, and then knocked down a three to force a Maryland timeout only 2:21 into the half.
The Devils briefly stretched their lead to 14 points, but Maryland would not go away. A D. J. Strawberry layup cut the lead to 50-44 with 11:03 to play, but layups by Chris Duhon and Shavlik Randolph quickly built Duke's lead back to 10.
Maryland missed their best opportunity to catch the Blue Devils, however. They held the Blue Devils scoreless for 3:07 and did score seven unanswered points (a layup by Chris McCray, a jumper and a three-pointer by Caner-Medley), but also came away empty on three straight possessions with the score 58-52.
Caner-Medley's three did draw the Terps back within 58-55 and the crowd, frustrated so much of the night, exploded. After the game, Coach Williams said about Caner-Medley, "I think he left it all out on the floor, which is what you have to do."
Redick quickly quieted the fans knocking down a three on Duke's next possession. He was the game's high scorer with 26 points, making 5-6 threes.
The point guard battle tonight was clearly won by Duke's Chris Duhon, who dished out eight assists and turned the ball over only twice. Maryland's John Gilchrist had comparable numbers with seven assists and four turnovers, but it was Duhon who ran his team's offense more efficiently.
After the game, Coach K lavished praise on his senior point guard, "Chris Duhon was huge for us. You'll hear about JJ (Redick) tonight, but we wouldn't have won without Duhon. He was a great senior leader tonight."
Maryland's senior, Jamar Smith, did not come up big. Smith made only 5-14 shots and pulled down a season low three rebounds. His 12 points were second highest for the Terps, and Gilchrist added 10.
A tribute to Maryland's overall defensive effort was the fact that Luol Deng was the only Blue Devil besides Redick to reach double figures in scoring with 13 points, but he made only 5-18 shots in the process. He was the game's leading rebounder with 12.
Overall, Duke outrebounded Maryland 49-34 and committed only 11 turnovers. The Terps made it to the free throw line only nine times, making seven. The Devils were 13-17 from the line. Duke has still only allowed two opponents to score more than 61 points all season and showed anyone who doubted that they are one of the best (if not THE best) defensive teams in the nation.
Williams summed up the Terps effort, "As a team we just didn't play well enough. When you lose you have to look inside yourself, and we'll have to do that here very quickly." There is little time to think about what might have been, particularly when you team sports a 1-3 conference record like Maryland does after this loss. As tough and deep as the ACC is this season, it will be difficult for any team to make up much ground.
After this dip in their roller-coaster season, Maryland needs to begin making the uphill climb quickly.
Notes From Under the Shell
Duke has now won 13 of their last 17 games vs. Maryland and leads the all-time series 98-55.
The Terps are now 3-3 vs. ranked teams this season and have five more regular season games scheduled vs. opponents currently in the Top 25. Maryland and Duke have split their regular season meetings each of the past four seasons, which means the Terps will need a win at Cameron Indoor Stadium next month to continue that trend. Maryland is the last visiting team to win at Duke, beating the Devils in February 2001.
This was the lowest scoring Maryland-Duke game since the Terps defeated the Devils 40-36 on January 9, 1982. Games like that brought the three-point arc and shot clock into college basketball.
The attraction of #1 Duke brought out even more media all-stars than last week's Carolina game. The First Couple of sports media, Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon (co-hosts of "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN and Washington Post columnists) were both in attendance. Kornheiser made it known to anyone who cared that he would leave before the game actually started, however. ESPN NBA writer and Washington DC resident David Aldridge was also at press row. Other notables were former St. John's coach Mike Jarvis, former NFL Star (and Duke alum Grant Hill's dad) Calvin Hill and Baltimore Orioles' Vice-President Mike Flannagan.
ESPN analyst and former Maryland star Len Elmore was also courtside tonight along with his former teammate Tom McMillen. It was great to see them exchange a warm handshake and take a few minutes to catch up with each other before the game. Other former Terp players in the house were Steve Blake, Obinna Ekezie, Walt Williams, and Keith Booth.
This is the space where I was going to write about the clever signs the students brought to the game, but if there were any of note I did not see them. Most of the ones I did see mistook crudeness for cleverness and are not worth mentioning.
I'm sure there are Duke fans that will be disappointed there was no acts of violence by the fans at Comcast Center tonight. That means they'll just have to keep bringing up prior year's incidents to prove their point that Terrapin crowds are made up of a bunch of "thugs." I should mention that the security staff was significantly beefed up at Comcast Center tonight.
Maryland's next game will be on Sunday night at Clemson. Game time is 6:30 PM, a change from the originally schedule 8:00 start. The contest will be nationally televised on Fox Sports Net.
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