Wednesday, February 2, 2011, 11:15 pm
By Chris Knoche
MARYLAND PAGE MARYLAND VIDEO
Virtually every critical ingredient was in place last night at the Comcast Center for the Maryland Terrapins important conference tilt against the Duke Blue Devils.
Except, perhaps, the most important ingredient of allthe home team simply did not play well against the defending national champions. As a result, the Terps battled from behind virtually all night and ultimately fell 80-62.
The loss drops them to 14-8 overall and 4-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference while Duke improves to 20-2 and a league-leading 7-1 in conference play. More significantly for Maryland, the loss leaves still in search of a defining win for the season.
Back to those ingredients for a minute. The student section was packed in anticipation for the 9 PM start. At 5:30. As usual, there was a celebrity-laden crowd that included Wizard rookie John Wall, former Los Angeles Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda and, of course, Johnny Holliday.
By the 9 PM tipoff, Comcast was a Fire Marshalls nightmare and both teams started quickly and went right after each other in the interior. Barely three minutes in the score was tied at 6 and all of the twelve points scored came either in the paint or at the free throw line.
Midway through a back and forth first half, Maryland reserve forward James Padgett scored on an offensive put-back to give the Terps a 16-15 lead. It would be their last lead for the night.
Duke offers virtually every team they play some serious match-up issues. Duke star guard Nolan Smith is one of the countrys finest combination guards and has a stoic demeanor at critical moments that seems to calm his team. He also leads the league in both scoring and assists. Thats Vasquezian.
Duke star forward Kyle Singler now in his eighth season in Durham -has enjoyed two huge games against the Terps this season and was virtually unstoppable on this February night. Then you add in a couple of cold-blooded three point specialists in Seth Curry and Brian Dawkins and toss in a couple of rugged if limited- Plumlee brothers and you have a damn fine college basketball team.
With the Terps ahead by one midway through the first half, Singler and Smith took over at a critical time. Both had three points in a quick 8-0 run and Duke was ahead 23-16 and forced Maryland to take a timeout. A Dino Gregory dunk stemmed the tide briefly at the 8:00 mark and then Duke took off again.
With Singler and Smith both saddled with minor foul issues, Duke turned to reserves Curry and Dawkins and they were both contributed to a Chinese water torture kind of spurt, taking almost 5 minutes to go on a 15-5 run and the lead was 38-23. The Terps called their second timeout of the half. From that point, the Terps seemed to show some resolve and closed the half out on a 10-2 run, including a coast to coast effort by reserve guard Cliff Tucker at the buzzer and the margin was a manageable 40-33 and the Comcast crowd was back into it.
For the half, only Marylands free throw shooting had kept them in the game. They shot an impressive 13-15 from the stripe while they struggled from the field (10-26, 0-2 from three). While the rebounding was even, Duke seemed to get more than its share of long rebounds and loose balls around the basket that led to second chance opportunities. Duke may take better advantage of those than virtually any team in the country.
Perhaps the most critical possessions of the game took place in the first few minutes after halftime.
After their run to end the half, it was Maryland ball to start the half. A score would ignite the crowd further. Better yet, a mini-run by the home team would set the place on fire. Instead, the Terps fell apart. By the first media timeout they had gone 0-3 from the field and committed three turnovers while Singler and Smith combined for seven points and the lead was back to double digits at 47-34.
During the next stretch, Terp reserves Tucker and Hawk Paulsson hit back to back three pointers the Terps first in two games- but it was completely negated as Singler went on a personal 11 point run to keep Maryland at bay 56-43.
Duke then went suddenly cold over a two minute stretch and missed five consecutive shots and the Terps took advantage. An 8-0 run narrowed the score to 56-51 with 9:24 remaining and the crowd was back in the game.
Over the next four minutes the Terps would score only three points, in spite of a number of opportunities for more and Dukes Dawkins would supply a pair of three point daggers in a 10-3 run to take the margin to 66-54 and the home team was done. Duke closed the game out at the free throw line and the Terps offense pretty much shut down altogether.
Dukes Singler and Smith had 43 points between them and they shot 53 (30-57) from the field. The differences in the game were pretty easy to find. Duke shot 10-23 from three; the Terps were 2-9. Duke had a 22-15 advantage on second chance points and they got critical contributions off of their bench from Dawkins and Curry.
Maryland was led, as usual, by another Jordan Williams double-double (20 points, 10
rebounds). Adrian Bowie chipped in 11 points and was a catalyst for much of the game but he had three big turnovers in the first five minutes of the second half. The Terps did shoot well from the free throw line (20-27, 74) for the second consecutive game and Williams was a big part of that. He entered the game at just 52 on the season but nailed 12 of 16 attempts.
As disappointing as the loss must have been for these Terps, they have to get right back up and ready to play. The three game home stand continues with a struggling Wake Forest team coming to Comcast on Saturday afternoon.
It may be just what the doctor ordered.