COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Sometimes all the confidence in the world isn't enough.
Maryland's Sonia Chase hit a 15-foot pull-up jumper with 5.3 seconds left to propel the Terrapins to a 54-53 victory Friday night against the No. 13 women's basketball team, who entered the game riding high after three consecutive wins versus ranked opponents.
The Blue Devils (14-6, 7-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) led 53-52 with less than a minute remaining in the game. After Maryland's Kalisa Davis was called for traveling, the Terps (12-8, 5-5) were forced to foul several times, eventually sending Duke's Hilary Howard to the line for a 1-and-1 with 12.4 seconds left.
But Howard, who entered the night shooting over 90 percent from the charity stripe in conference games, missed the front end, allowing Maryland to call a timeout and set up the game-winning shot.
Duke did get one last chance to respond, but after successfully receiving a long pass from Lauren Rice, Howard was double-teamed and forced to pass back to Rice, whose long three-pointer fell well short as the final buzzer sounded.
"I'm just really proud of Maryland," said Duke coach Gail Goestenkors after watching her team's 38-30 halftime lead disintegrate. "I'm really glad they won the game. They deserved the win, they hustled, they worked their tail ends off.
"We got the big heads, I think. We thought we were pretty special after last week [and] tried to get our feet back on the ground. Obviously it didn't happen."
Duke enjoyed a five-point lead after a three-pointer by Nicole Erickson and a driving layup by Howard made the score 51-46 with 6:03 left in the game. From there on out, Davis and Chase led the Terrapins on a 6-2 run before the final shot that gave Maryland its only lead of the second half.
"It was exactly what we wanted," said Maryland coach Chris Weller when asked about Chase's jumper. "We called it because Sonia had played a brilliant game and she was playing her guts out. It looked to me like there was no one who wanted to win it more than Sonia, and she was doing so well, working so hard that she was going to make that shot."
Chase led all scorers with 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting. The only other Terrapin to crack double digits was Stephanie Cross, who scored 10 points and added six rebounds.
It was largely due to the work of Cross and teammate Branka Bogunovic on the offensive glass that Maryland was able to stay close in the first half after Duke sprinted out to a 12-2 lead to start the game. After being outrebounded by a wide margin when the two teams met for the first time this season in Durham, the Terrapins turned the tables by grabbing 30 boards to Duke's 21, including a 16-15 edge at the Blue Devils' end of the floor.
"We were leading the conference in rebound differential [and] they just kicked our tails on the boards, especially at the offensive end," Goestenkors said. "They just did a great job."
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Howard paced Duke with 13 points and six assists, while Peppi Browne chipped in with 10 points and a team-high six rebounds. Payton Black added 12 points off the bench.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, their three leading scorers did most of their damage before the break. Howard, Browne and Black combined for only eight points in the second half as Duke struggled to a 37.5 percent clip from the floor and a season-low 15 second-half points.
Weller credited her team's defensive success to a shift in strategy.
"When Sonia came up and took over on Howard, I think that turned the game around, because they couldn't get the middle penetration," she said. "In the first half, we were headed for a 70 to 80 point game by them, which is their style, and that's not ours. So we focused in the halftime on just trying to get into a 50s to 60s game, because that's our style."
The loss snapped Duke's four-game winning streak and killed the momentum the team gained after it beat N.C. State, Virginia and Clemson in succession and leapt into a tie for first place in the ACC. After being brought back down to earth by the unranked Terrapins, Duke's Payton Black summed up the question that all of the Blue Devils will be asking themselves as they prepare to face Wake Forest Monday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"Maybe we didn't respect our opponent as much as we should have and we overlooked them, and we need to make sure that we come out for every game, not just the big ones," Black said. "As Coach said in the locker room, this was probably the biggest game of the season, and now... we have this big question: what if we would have won this game?"