COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The women's basketball team has lost games this season because of lack of talent or lack of height. It hadn't lost a game because of lack of effort-until Friday night against the Maryland Terrapins.
While the Blue Devils had been on a tear, streaking by their last four Atlantic Coast Conference opponents and jumping 11 places in the polls, the size of their heads apparently swelled along with their ranking.
Simply put, Duke suffered a 54-53 to Maryland loss because of overconfidence.
"We got the big heads, I think," coach Gail Gostenkors said. "We thought we were pretty special after last week... thought we were just going to show up and win the ballgame. Obviously it didn't happen. We got outhustled for every loose ball, every rebound."
Duke led after the first half, 38-30, thanks mostly to the shooting of Peppi Browne and Hilary Howard, who were both 4-of-5 from the field in the first half. The team combined for 66.7 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line.
But while overconfidence may not have shown up in the shooting stats, the Blue Devils' lack of effort was painfully obvious in rebounding; their 21 total rebounds fell far below their average of 37.6 per game.
In particular, Duke did not put forth the effort on the defensive glass. The Terrapins pulled down 16 offensive boards in the game, while the Blue Devils could only snatch the ball from their own basket 15 times.
"We were leading the conference in rebound differential," Gostenkors said. "They just kicked our tails on the boards, especially on the offensive end. They just did a great job. I'm very, very disappointed with our effort."
It was not that Duke didn't have incentive to beat Maryland, especially at Cole Field House. Last year, the Blue Devils suffered a similarly tough road loss to the Terrapins, falling 68-64.
Especially discouraged after that game was then-freshman Peppi Browne. Browne, who attended high school 15 minutes from College Park, had been eager to put on a display for her hometown fans. While her seven-point, four-assist performance last year wasn't bad, she made sure that the Terrapins lost earlier this season in Cameron when she scored a game-high 17 points.
While Browne achieved a similar performance in the opening minutes on Friday, she and the Blue Devils tailed off in the remainder of the game.
"We could have been able to go strength for strength with them, but I don't think we gave it our all tonight," junior Payton Black said. "They just outhustled us at every aspect of the game."
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This game may not turn out to be the most significant of the season, but it may end up being Duke's worst loss. A collective mental attitude by the Blue Devils cost them not only a game, but the presence of mind that results from always giving a full effort.
"We need to make sure that we come out for every game, not just the big games," Black said. "Now, as Coach said in the locker room, we have this big question: what if we would have won this game?"