It was a game that featured a little bit of everything:
An insane home crowd complete with the wave and flash mob antics (don’t roll your eyes).
Standout performances on both sides.
Last minute drama in what may very well have been one of the last games in a most compelling series.
Controversial calls by officials at critical times (I mean, Jeeez, there were 49 fouls called and the game lasted close to three hours).
Really interesting post-game quotes from both head coaches.
Most importantly, what it featured was a heart-stopping, much needed 83-81 win for the Maryland Terrapins against the “maybe they once were rivals, maybe they weren’t but they won’t be moving forward” Duke Blue Devils.
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon had maintained all week long that his team did not have to play a perfect game to beat Duke and he proved to be Kreskin-like. The Terps committed – count ‘em- 26 turnovers and still won.
How the hell does that happen?
Well, they won because they torched the Duke defense to the tune of 60% shooting for the game. Nobody does that to Duke. They won because they doubled on the Blue Devils on the backboards with a 40-20 rebounding advantage. They did so because sophomore center Alex Len completely undressed his opposite number – Duke center Mason Plumlee- from start to finish. Len finished the game with 19 points and nine rebounds and, considering the stakes, played perhaps his best game of the season. Plumlee never got involved in the game and seemed strangely dispassionate and finished with just four points and three rebounds.
Maybe they also won because one of the most important members of their vaunted freshman class- combo guard Seth Allen – had a coming out party in front of a national TV audience. Actually he had the kind of game that probably kept both teams in it down the stretch but, ultimately, his two free throws with 2.8 seconds left to play proved to be the difference when a long Duke prayer went begging at the buzzer. Allen’s 8 turnovers against the Duke defense left the door ajar for Duke after the Terps had forged a couple of leads but he also proved to be almost impossible to guard by any Duke defender when the game was on the line.
The Terps were playing without junior point guard Pe’Shon Howard, whom Turgeon had suspended indefinitely earlier in the week. While it might clip Maryland’s depth, it also means that players like Allen would be allowed to play through mistakes in games like this and he clearly benefited from it.
On to the postgame quotes by both coaches:
When asked by a reporter what this win means to him, Turgeon teared up and talked about his oldest son having to leave Comcast Center in last week’s loss to Virginia because of some of the heckling of Turgeon by Maryland fans behind the bench. In halting words, the Maryland coach talked about how loyal his family is to him and the fact that he invited them to the post-game press conference because of it.
On the other hand, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski did his best to incite Terrapin Nation with his comments. He first referenced Plumlee’s play and mentioned that it was “fairly obvious that we’re playing on fumes” as a result of Duke’s “exhausting” schedule. He never mentioned that the Duke had enjoyed a full week off prior to dispatching the Terps in Durham last month and that his “exhausting” schedule was very similar to the one Maryland had prior to playing at Duke when Turgeon made no such excuses.
When asked about the rivalry with the Terps, the venerable Coach K went on to say that “if it was such a rivalry, they’d still be in the ACC. Obviously, they (Maryland) didn’t think it’s that important or they wouldn’t be in the Big Ten”.
Memo to coach: A University can never base the decision on the direction of any part of its programs on events that may happen one day a year. You have gone on record with your disgust for the Maryland decision. Let’s talk about the game.
This win was a game changer for Maryland. They started the day on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament. This was a win against a 22-2 team ranked number 1 in one poll and 2 in the other. It was a name brand win that the program and coach needed in the worst way. It was also pretty much the last opportunity the team had for a win that would change their computer ranking for the better.
Considering the ups and downs of this young team and its ability follow up solid highs with depressing lows (and vice versa) Turgeon’s handling of his team after the game was interesting.
In the locker room, he and his players enjoyed what he called a “hugger” and rejoiced in the effort and the win.
Then as he gathered them before they headed in separate directions he reminded them of the game at Boston College on Tuesday night and told them not only did they have a curfew this evening, it would be at 10 PM.
Hey, it’s February. The stakes get higher by the game.