Could it have been? Those packed into Maryland's Comcast Center had about 15 minutes to take it all in before the second half started, because when it did, normalcy quickly returned.
Duke stormed out of the locker room, turned three Maryland turnovers into six points in just over a minute, and thereafter steadily dismantled the shell-shocked Terps, winning 93-84 in the most hostile of its road environments.
"That was pretty much the game right there—the first three minutes of the second half," Maryland guard Eric Hayes said.
Before many of the 17,950 fans settled back into their seats, Duke (17-1, 5-0 ACC) had cut its 51-42 halftime deficit to three points. Following a Bambale Osby turnover, Duke's Lance Thomas converted a difficult jumper in the lane. DeMarcus Nelson then picked off the inbounds pass and scored. Osby turned it over again and Nelson hit another lay-up.
"That was unexpected, man," said Osby, who otherwise had a stellar game, dominating down low with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
From there, the two teams went punch-for-punch, but Duke hit a little harder. It got to seemingly every loose ball and grabbed seemingly every contested rebound. Duke out-rebounded Maryland (12-8, 2-3 ACC) by seven in the second half after Maryland controlled the boards in the first 20 minutes.
"There were several [rebounds] that we could have had which would have given us more than one shot at the basket," Maryland coach Gary Williams said. "We didn't do that. When you play a good team, you have to do things the right way and we made some mistakes by not getting the ball."
Nelson had his way, scoring 19 of his game-high 27 points in the half, mostly on fearless drives to the basket. Duke guard Gerald Henderson complemented Nelson in the backcourt, finishing with 23 points.
Meanwhile, Maryland, which hit clutch free throws down the stretch in its upset of North Carolina, faltered from the line when it mattered most. Osby and guard Greivis Vasquez missed the front end of their one-and-one attempts in the last five minutes and forward James Gist missed a free throw with 46 seconds left that would have cut the Duke lead to three.
"That's not something we normally do," Osby said. "It just wasn't our night at the free throw line either."
In the first half, though, it was Maryland's night from everywhere. Led by Osby and Gist, Maryland outscored Duke 30-16 in the paint. While Duke had an advantage on the perimeter with a smaller lineup, it had no answer for Osby's strength. Osby scored six of Maryland's first eight points.
"Their big guys, we had trouble with them—and a lot people will continue to have trouble with them because they're good," said Krzyzewski, who evened his record at the Comcast Center to 3-3.
Maryland went on a 10-0 run midway through the first half to lead 35-29. With 1:32 left before halftime, Krzyzewski was called for a technical foul after he voiced his displeasure on a Gist follow dunk that he thought was basket interference. Hayes made the two technical free throws to put Maryland up 45-40.
Maryland shot 62.1 percent from the field in the first half and its 51 points were the most Duke has given up in a half this season. The Blue Devils came into Sunday giving up just 64.1 points a game.
"We were giving up too much," Krzyzewski said. "We were a little bit scattered in the first half."
For Duke, it turned out to be OK, because it then came out of the locker room and had what Krzyzewski said was its "most impressive half of the season."
What seemed like another improbable victory over a top-five team for Maryland slowly faded away. Duke's experience took over; it had just four second-half turnovers. Even the Blue Devils' freshmen were unfazed by the rowdy environment. When Duke guard Greg Paulus committed his fourth foul with 9:50 left, freshman Nolan Smith came in and didn't miss a beat, perhaps even playing better.
The Terps lacked the intensity they had in the first half, which allowed Duke to take over.
"I think we did get kind of complacent [in the second half]," said Gist, who finished with 26 points. "I don't think we were surprised at the way they started the second half. We kind of knew how they were going to come out but it's just a matter of us trying to come out there and match that intensity—even be better than that intensity—and we failed to do that."
Said Maryland guard Cliff Tucker: "We just didn't have enough pride in the second half."
For Williams, this game was just another lesson for the largely inexperienced Terps. They learned they can play with the best, but to beat them consistently might take some time.
"We're not perfect," Williams said. "We have two days to get ready for Virginia and we're going to be ready. We have to play every game, every situation. We were that way for a long time and we want to get back to that level."
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