DUKE 67-61, FINAL: Blue Devils make their free throws when it matters, and even though Hayes can't miss in the final minute, Duke hangs on for its first ACC Tournament final since 2006. Back for more after the post-game, but in the meantime, rudimentary stats: Scheyer leads Duke with 22, Singler with 14, Smith 10, Henderson 8. Hayes has 20, Vasquez 14 for the Terps.
Blue Devils play Florida State at 1 p.m. tomorrow here in the Georgia Dome.
DUKE 61-55, 56.3: Duke breaks the press with an inbound pass to Singler, who directs it to Henderson, who bats it up court. McClure runs it down and flushes it home for his third bucket of the night. All of them have been big.
Once again, though, Hayes cans a step-back 3-pointer over Scheyer to give him 14 points on the evening. Full timeout, Marylands, and the Terrapins are out of timeouts. Lots of time left, but I still don't think it will be enough for Gary Williams' team.
DUKE 59-52, 1:17: The Blue Devils are in "open," their four-corner stall offense, and even though they haven't scored out of it, they've been able to milk enough time for it to be effective. When Smith missed a 3-pointer with the shot clock expired, Singler grabs the offensive rebound and is immediately fouled. He makes both free throws in the single bonus, and even when Hayes responded on the other end, Duke still leads by seven, inbounding the ball.
DUKE 56-47, 3:38: Hello, Dave McClure! The defensive specialist, a senior, scored four straight points to give Duke a 56-43 lead, easily its largest of the game. First, he beats Dave Neal in the paint for a left-handed finger-roll. Timeout Maryland. Then, he picks off a pass in the halfcourt, dribbles the rest of the floor, puts in another left-handed finger-roll and draws the foul. McClure gives a big fist-pump, Henderson wraps him up for a bear hug, and Duke seems ready to punch its ticket to the Sunday final. In fact, even before the layup-and-the-foul, Blue Devil fans in the crowd were chanting "Drive home safely!"
But Maryland isn't going to go away. Hayes sank two short jumpers to bring the Terrapins to within nine, and they have the ball. A Vasquez three here might prompt Krzyzewski to call one of his two remaining timeouts. Williams still has four in the bank, and you can expect him to use them liberally.
DUKE 50-43, 7:24: Gerald Henderson was absent in the first half last night, and he's been quiet today. But the junior has a knack for hitting big shots, and he's beginning to come alive now. Henderson stroked a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Blue Devils a 47-41 advantage just when the Terrapins were beginning to charge, and just more than a minute later, Scheyer swished another three,giving him a game-high 17 points. The Blue Devils are 9-of-20 from long range (and 9-of-9 from the charity stripe), which goes again to show how reliant Duke is on the 3-ball. After all, if Duke had missed two of those nine makes, this is a one-point game.
DUKE 44-41, 10:16: Here they come. After Scheyer snaked through the lane to bank in a short jumper, Vasquez converts a runner on the right side, and on the next possession, Vasquez gets out in transition and finds Neal, who hits the same shot off the glass. Full timeout, Duke. Good timeout, Duke.
Notice how Vasquez is involved in every single run the Terrapins make. Everyone knows he's the heart and soul of this team, but that's even more acute in a tournament setting. He only has 11 points--Scheyer has 14 and Singler has 12--but he's clearly the most valuable player to his team. Whatever run Maryland makes, Vasquez will be in the middle of it.
DUKE 42-37, 11:42: In any close game, let alone those in the ACC Tournament, it's the little things that separate the winning team from the other. That's cliched, but it's true. And Jon Scheyer is as proficient in the little things as anyone in the conference. With the shot clock winding down a few minutes ago, he leaned into Eric Hayes on a 3-pointer and drew three foul shots. He sank all of them, giving Duke a 40-34 lead, and Smith made the score 42-37 with a righty layup on the left side with his back to the basket.
Hate to beat a dead horse here, but I'm still expecting a Terrapins run. Remember, there's a lot of time left. Given the way these games have played out, 30 seconds is an eternity. What that makes 11:42, I'm not sure, but I'm reminded of Gerald Henderson's ominous quote from last night: "Around this time, crazy stuff happens."
DUKE 35-34, 15:09: If the first few minutes of the half are any indication, we're due for a heartbeat-raising 20 minutes. With Mike Patrick and Dick Vitale yapping away a few seats away from me and 10 players on the floor waiting to begin, Dave Neal clapped his hands and shouted, "20 minutes! 20 minutes!"
Singler threw up an airball to start the half, but Scheyer atoned for Singler's miss with a 3-pointer from the corner. Even though the Blue Devils are winning, it almost feels, in a way, as if they're not. Maryland's going to make a run. You can just feel it. Gary Williams is stomping his foot on the sidelines, begging Vasquez to make himself open, and the Terrapins seem to have more fire in them today. Steve Wojciechowski just screamed at the Blue Devils to get off the floor, but they all look a bit lethargic. Maybe it's me. And maybe that will change in the next few minutes.
DUKE 32-30, HALFTIME: Things are beginning to get a bit chippy here in the Georgia Dome. But isn't that what you'd expect from a Duke-Maryland game? Doesn't matter that this contest's not in Durham or College Park. Same players, same coaches, same teams, same type of play. At the 1:48 mark, Neal was finally called for an illegal screen, this time on Paulus, and Vasquez immediately turned to find a referee to chew him out. He argued that Paulus' hands were all over him--he was right--but the closest zebra ignored him. On the next play, Singler was whistled for an over-the-back call that, at least from this seat, appeared to be more phantom than real. It was a classic make-up call.
Scheyer made one of the bigger shots of the half, a 3-pointer from the top of the key from a handoff by Singler, to put Duke up 32-28. Maryland called its first timeout of the half, and Mosley knocked down two free throws to cut the Duke lead to two, which is where we stand right now.
Quick halftime stats, before I run into the press room to grab some chips and M&Ms:
- FG percentage: Duke 37.0, Maryland 40.7
- 3FG percentage: Duke 50.0 (6-of-12), Maryland 50.0 (3-of-6)
- Assists: Duke 6, Maryland 5
- Rebounds: Duke 13, Maryland 16
- Turnovers: Duke 6, Maryland 8
- Leading scorers: Singler 12, Scheyer 6, Smith 5; Vasquez 9, Bowie 8, Hayes 5
- Lead changes: 9
DUKE 24-23, 3:37: Krzyzewski's screaming again, but this time, it's not at his players, but at the referees. At the 4:20 mark, Dave Neal set what appeared to be a moving screen on Nolan Smith. If that sounds familiar, it should. On Feb. 25 in College Park, Neal set a legal screen that Smith ran into, giving him a mild concussion that made him miss three games. This time, Neal didn't appear to be set, but the officials didn't whistle him, and he ended up converting a layup. There was a mysterious stoppage in play--Krzyzewski didn't call timeout, but both teams huddled around their coaches--and Coach K let the zebras have it.
"We lost one guy for two weeks with a concussion!" he yelled. "Same screen! Same screen!"
Both teams seemed confused with the break in play, but when they took the floor again, Singler rattled home his second straight three, giving him a game-high 12 points. Remember what happened the last time Smith went down with a screen (he was fine this time)? Duke used it as fuel to break away from the Terrapins. Let's see if that happens again.
DUKE 18-16, 7:06: Remember when I mentioned that I had moved to the front row of press row? It seemed insignificant at the time, just me trying to actually see the game, but being so close to the court in a relatively quiet arena allows me to hear basically everything that's said on the floor. Duke's man-to-man defense has been active, and the players have been shouting out every screen and every switch. But one of the downsides of switching everything is the reality of mismatches, and Maryland's trying to exploit that. The Terrapins have set screens to create mismatches for Vasquez on the perimeter, and on the last few possessions, the Terrapins have milked the shot clock and gotten the ball to Vasquez with Lance Thomas on him. Once, Vasquez drove by him and drew a foul. On the next possession, he swished a long 3-pointer over the 6-foot-8 forward.
Smith made a 3-pointer, but on offense, Duke is anemic with Williams in, because Vasquez is playing off of him and creating a 4-on-5 scenario. He'll either have to start shooting--and making--3-pointers, or Krzyzewski's going to have to turn to a Smith/Paulus combination to replace the freshman.
DUKE 15-13, 11:04: What a difference a few minutes--and a lineup change--can make. Greg Paulus, who played just one minute last night, entered the game at the 14:12 mark and has been in ever since, playing alongside Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer. Add in Singler and either Henderson or McClure, and Duke's offense has been dynamic. In transition, the Blue Devils have a number of ballhandlers, and that's resulted in easy jumpers and putback opportunities, especially with Singler crashing the boards as he's done in the past two games.
Defensively, Smith is hounding Vasquez, with Paulus and McClure taking turns on Eric Hayes. So far, so good. Vasquez has four points on contested runners, and on the other end, Singler has six points with a putback and four free throws. Scheyer just nailed a 3-pointer from the corner after drawing his defender in the air with a pump fake. No more cursing from Krzyzewski, at least not right now.
MARYLAND 7-2, 15:49: Last night, Duke started hot, faded and recovered. This afternoon, the Blue Devils have started anything but hot.
The Terrapins rolled out to a 5-0 lead with a Bowie layup and 3-pointer, after which he held his follow-through. Mike Krzyzewski called a quick timeout at 17:47--he rarely calls timeouts so early in the game--and when his players came into the huddle, Krzyzewski greeted them with the following question: "What the fudge are you guys doing?" Except it wasn't quite fudge.
So where are Duke's troubles coming from? Well, the Blue Devils can't make a shot, to start. But one thing to watch is how Maryland guards Elliot Wiliams. Vasquez has played off of the freshman, essentially daring him to shoot, and Williams is 0-of-1 from 3-point land and, further, his chronic habit of jab-stepping isn't nearly as effective. Not a surprise that Nolan Smith has just replaced Williams on the floor.
PREGAME: Talking to a few reporters on press row, no one really has any idea what to expect. How will the Terrapins respond to a third game when their coach made a big deal of just winning two? How will Duke respond to surviving a close postseason game? That's what the games are for, I suppose. Starting lineups: Milbourne, Neal, Mosley, Bowie, Vasquez for Maryland; Singler, Henderson, Williams, Scheyer, Thomas for Duke.
PREGAME: On the personal level, I just moved to what might be the second-best seat in the house--two seats to the left of Mike Patrick, right at midcourt, in the front row. Technically, I'm in The Sporting News' seat, but let's see if anyone notices. Cross your fingers.
PREGAME: There won't be a third installment of the Tobacco Road rivalry, at least not until the NCAA Tournament. The Seminoles just upset the Tar Heels 73-70, scoring the last four points of the game on free throws, and just like that, the Tournament's No. 1 seed is out.
The Blue Devils are getting ready to take the floor, but with this new development, is Duke playing for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? If the Blue Devils get past Maryland and can knock off Florida State tomorrow, they will be 28-6, and might be one of the only potential No. 1 seeds not to have lost in their conference tournament. Either way, Luke DeCock thinks Duke has locked up a trip to Greensboro, which is always good news for Mike Krzyzewski's program.
Ah, there are the boos. Here comes Duke.
PREGAME: Feels like we were just here, writing to you before Duke's ACC Tournament quarterfinal matchup against Boston College. In fact, it feels like... 18 hours ago!
We're back on press row in the Georgia Dome, where Duke and Maryland will tip about 20 minutes after Florida State and North Carolina finish the other semifinal. The Tar Heels lead 70-69, but the Seminoles have the ball with about a minute left. This game has been back-and-forth, just like both teams' quarterfinal games, and you have to wonder whether either team will have anything left for the final. Of course, the same could be said about Duke or Maryland if they're engaged in a tight one.
Tim Britton's covered The Sports Blog's preview in his Beyond The Arc post, but one aspect he didn't touch on was how desperate this Maryland team is. Before the Tournament, Williams made T-shirts asking the Terrapins to win two games. They've done that, and now they're playing with house money.
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