COLLEGE PARK, Md.—In what might be the final ACC game Duke plays against Maryland on the road, the Blue Devils made their exit from the Comcast Center amid a sea of rowdy Terrapin fans.
Unable to handle Maryland’s size and intensity on the glass, No. 2 Duke lost to the Terrapins 83-81 in what was likely the penultimate conference matchup between the two teams and potentially the Blue Devils’ last trip to College Park.
The Blue Devils (22-3, 9-3 in the ACC), who did not hold a lead in the second half, made a late run, trailing by just two points with 38.7 seconds remaining. The Terrapins (18-7, 6-6) led by as many as 10 with 3:39 remaining, but Duke finally knotted it up at 81 with 17 seconds left when Rasheed Sulaimon nailed three free throws after getting fouled on an attempt from deep.
But Quinn Cook fouled freshman guard Seth Allen with 2.8 seconds on the clock. Allen—who finished with 16 points playing the minutes vacated by suspended Pe’Shon Howard—made both free throws and Cook missed a last-second heave, prompting the Maryland faithful to storm the court.
“Quinn took a great shot. I thought it was in, but sometimes it just doesn’t bounce your way,” Sulaimon said. “Maryland played a great game and I’m really proud of our team and how we fought, especially in a hostile environment like that, to have a chance to win the game.”
Maryland held a decisive edge on the glass throughout the game, capitalizing on Duke’s smaller lineup and building a 40-20 rebounding advantage.
“It’s one thing to play Duke close, it’s another thing to beat them,” Terrapin head coach Mark Turgeon said. “I thought our big guys were dominant, physically. Forty-to-twenty on the boards—that’s pretty good.”
Maryland dominated the inside, shooting 60.0 percent from the field and converting on easy opportunities inside the paint.
National Player of the Year candidate Mason Plumlee was no match for the Terrapin center Alex Len. The 7-foot-1 Ukrainian dominated Plumlee on both ends of the floor en route to 19 points and nine rebounds in just 28 minutes of action. Maryland, utilizing a rotation of nine players, kept its big men rested by rotating them through the lineup, leaving the Blue Devils’ shallow frontcourt rotation exhausted in the second half.
Plumlee managed just four points and three boards on the evening. Plumlee spent significant portions of the second half on the bench, yielding minutes to Josh Hairston and Alex Murphy.
“There’s so much pressure on Mason to play outstanding,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “That wears on you as the season goes along. He didn’t look fresh tonight and Len played really well.”
Seth Curry made his first six shots of the contest on the way to 14 first-half points for Duke and finished with a game-high 25. He did not attempt a 3-pointer until the 3:06 mark of the first half, but capitalized on jump-shooting opportunities from the wing and drove to the bucket for runners and easy layups.
Despite Curry’s hot shooting to start the game, Maryland closed the first half on a 5-0 run to seize the game’s momentum and added an 8-0 run early in the second half to put the game firmly in their control. Maryland held a 49-41 advantage after forward Jake Layman converted on a transition layup and forward Shaquille Cleare added two free throws from the line.
One of the bright spots of the first half for the Blue Devils was the play of Hairston, who was assertive down low and finished with 11 points—just two short of his career high—despite tearing a ligament in his right thumb in practice Friday. He showed strength in the post and on the defensive end where he drew three offensive fouls.
The Terrapins struggled to take care of the ball, especially in the second half. The Blue Devils forced 26 Maryland turnovers, 16 of which came after halftime. This was the first time Duke had forced 26 turnovers in a game and lost since Jan. 10, 2007, when the team forced 28 turnovers in an 11-point loss to Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils have accomplished this feat eight times since then and won those games by an average of nearly 34 points.
After Hairston picked up his fourth foul with 7:42 remaining in the game, the Blue Devils’ small lineup got even smaller. Just as it had in the late stages of its win against North Carolina Wednesday, Duke featured four guards on the floor down the stretch against a much bigger and stronger Maryland lineup. The Blue Devils finished the game with Murphy playing center after Hairston and Plumlee fouled out in the game’s final minute.
“We had five guards out here for a lot of the time. This has been an exhausting schedule for our team since N.C. State and we’re playing on fumes,” Krzyzewski said. “The lineups that we play, Murphy never plays center for us.... We don’t even have enough guys to practice with to try it.”
Although the Blue Devils kept the game within reach throughout the second half, the Terrapins always seemed to answer. Maryland’s ability to get to the free-throw line helped to keep its lead safe. After attempting just three free throws in the first half, the Terrapins were 23-of-31 from the charity stripe in the second period. They were the beneficiary of 17 Duke fouls in the second half and were in the bonus for the game’s final 9:49.
“There was a stretch in the second half where almost every possession, if they didn’t score they were getting fouled,” Sulaimon said. “They got in the bonus and every time we fouled them they were shooting two free throws and they did a great job at making their free throws. It was definitely tough but we just have to fight through it and learn to adjust to how the game is being called.”
After a quiet start to the second half, Curry nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to trim Maryland’s advantage to 80-78 with 57.4 seconds remaining, but missed a jumper from the elbow early in the shot clock with a chance to tie the game.
Layman converted the back end of his two free throws after Plumlee fouled out, leading to the final sequence in which Sulaimon’s three free throws ultimately proved too little, too late.
updated 12:15 a.m. Feb. 18