Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said that 61 is supposed to be your best birthday.
After his No. 2 Blue Devils pulled out a hard-fought 77-65 win over Maryland Wednesday night, Krzyzewski got the birthday present he wished for.
Freshman Kyle Singler scored a career-high 26 points, while Greg Paulus chipped in 20 for Duke,- as it sealed a regular-season sweep of Maryland for the first time since 2004.
"It was a very, very tough ball game," Krzyzewski said. "Both teams played their hearts out tonight."
The last time the Blue Devils and Terrapins squared off Jan. 27, Duke (22-1, 10-0 in the ACC) faced its largest halftime deficit of the season, only to pull out a 93-84 win.
This time it was Maryland (16-9, 6-4) who fell behind early, but fueled by the hot shooting of Singler and Paulus, Duke refused to let the Terrapins get over the hump as it won its 12th straight game.
After garnering ACC Rookie of the Week honors for the fourth time following his 24-point, 10-rebound effort against Boston College Saturday, Singler continued his torrid shooting against the Terrapins, making a career high six three-pointers on nine attempts.
The forward wasn't only effective from the outside, he also played a major role in holding Terrapin big men Bambale Osby and James Gist to a combined 22 points.
And when DeMarcus Nelson slammed home a dunk to put Duke up 11 and the game out of reach with 2:43 to play, it was Singler who penetrated and dished the ball off for the assist.
"Kyle, the last three weeks, has gone to another level," Kryzezwski said. "He can shoot, defend, pass, he's a winner-he's got it all."
Coming into the game, Maryland planned on taking the 3-pointer away from Singler and Paulus. Instead, the Terrapins gave up six threes from the duo in the first half. Paulus scored 15 points in the frame, and Duke led 41-30 heading into the locker room.
The Blue Devils, however, were successful in limiting the Terrapin frontcourt duo of Osby and Gist, and slowed down the penetration of point guard Greivis Vasquez when it looked as if Maryland might take the lead in the second half.
"Vasquez starting the game just pushed the ball, and we couldn't keep him out of the paint for about six to eight minutes," Krzyzewski said. "Then we did a better job of that and got the lead."
The last time the teams met, Osby and Gist combined for 46 points and gave the Blue Devils fits in the paint.
In this matchup, Duke was especially effective in limiting Gist to only 3-of-11 shooting. In his last game against N.C. State, the senior tallied 30 points-tonight, he could only manage nine.
"They tried to put it down low, which we knew they were going to do," Singler said. "We did a fairly good job of containing, doubling down, scrapping for the ball and picking up loose ball garbage."
A key to the Blue Devils' success throughout the contest was that they were able to capitalize off of Maryland's 19 turnovers. Duke scored 31 points off of Terrapin miscues, while Maryland was able to garner only nine points in the same category.
"Those are not plays that coaches call," Krzyzewski said. "Those are reads that your players make and our guys made some really intelligent reads tonight."
While Terrapin head coach Gary Williams said that his team did a solid job preventing Nelson and Gerald Henderson from driving into the paint, Maryland's failure to stop Duke in transition and to take away the 3-pointer ultimately gave Duke the edge.
"That's the dynamic of our team-how do you stop us?" Nelson said. "Are you going to cut off our penetration and give up the 3-point line or are you going to stay home on our shooters and play our drivers one-on-one? Teams aren't going to be able to do that."
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