COLLEGE PARK, Md. - With the lights dimmed on a raucous crowd of 15,531 in the Comcast Center Monday night, two pillars of fire blazed at halfcourt as each Maryland starter was announced.
But when the gimmicky pyrotechnics were taken away, the No. 4 Terrapins had enough firepower to keep the fifth-largest crowd in ACC history on its feet and the No. 10 Blue Devils at bay, fending off any attempt at a Duke run with depth, speed and an attacking, experienced inside presence en route to an 85-70 win.
The victory, which was Maryland's first over the Blue Devils in College Park since Jan. 30, 1998, made the Terrapins the first team in the country to reach 20 wins.
"Pride, obviously, is a big thing in this rivalry," Maryland senior Laura Harper said. "We wanted to end this streak. As much as we didn't want to say it, that was something that was important for us. And it just feels so good to finally say that as a senior now, we did it, and it's over."
Fueled by the team's four junior and senior starters-who combined for 80 points and 27 rebounds-the Terrapins played like a team that refused to give in to the weight of the historic rivalry, even when the game seemed to be falling into Duke's hands.
With just under six minutes left in the game and down 68-67, Duke senior Wanisha Smith was at the line with a chance to give her team its first lead in a game in which it had trailed by as many as 13. Smith connected on the first but missed the second, and the Terrapins (20-1, 3-0 in the ACC) pulled down the rebound and pushed the ball up the floor. On the ensuing play, center Crystal Langhorne drove down the middle of the lane, turned and knocked down a right-handed hook that energized the fans, deflated the Blue Devils and gave her team the lead for good. Maryland would score eight points over the next 72 seconds, flustering Duke and closing out the contest on a 17-2 run.
"Never, at any point in the game, was I thinking that we were going to lose," said junior Marissa Coleman, who tied her career-high with 30 points Monday evening. "We knew [the Blue Devils] were going to go on a run-they're a great team...and it's about pride, so of course they were going to give us all they had. We knew it was going to come down to us making stops on defense."
While the Terrapins clamped down on defense, Duke (13-4, 2-1) struggled to contain the multifaceted Maryland attack. And in no statistic was this exposed more than in the free-throw differential between the two teams. The Blue Devils sent the Terrapins to the line 42 times, as they seemed a step slow on the perimeter and a bit too weak inside. Duke, on the other hand, attempted just 16 free throws. The 6-foot-1 Coleman sank eight of her 11 attempts from the charity stripe, while point guard Kristi Toliver went 10-of-13. Maryland was in the bonus halfway through the first period and 13 minutes into the second, and the 33 points from the line proved to be insurmountable for Duke.
"I'd like to know if any team has ever shot more than 42 free throws in a game," Blue Devils head coach Joanne P. McCallie said with frustration after the game. "Is that a world record or something?"
Forward Joy Cheek fouled out with five minutes left in the game and Duke trailing by four, which seemed to end any hope for a Duke victory on a night when the athletic and powerful Maryland frountcourt combined for 59 points. With junior Chante Black held to a season-low four points-in large part due to a hyper-extended knee suffered in the first half-the shortening of the Duke's frontcourt rotation was too much for the overmatched team to bear.
As the clock wound down on the Maryland victory, and the end of a decade-long run, the Blue Devils walked dejectedly off the court and the Terrapins celebrated at center court, unable to contain their elation. The crowd was back on its feet, just where it had been two hours earlier.
Maryland hopes it can carry that fire through its ACC slate, much like Duke did last year, while the Blue Devils can only hope they find their own flame, their own identity, in one of the nation's toughest conferences.
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