If you’ve been seeking the abridged version of a frustrating season for Maryland, the final 10 minutes of an 87-71 loss to Duke on Friday night revealed everything you needed to know about the Terps.
After an impressive performance over the first 30 minutes against the second-seeded Blue Devils in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, the Terps were in position to challenge the No. 5 team in the country, trailing 63-60 after a Dino Gregory layup at the 10:13 mark.
All-ACC senior Nolan Smith was ineffective throughout the night and left the game with a toe injury with just under seven minutes left. The normally sharpshooting Blue Devils were a paltry 3-for-15 from beyond the arc. And despite a huge night from all-conference senior Kyle Singler (29 points for the game), the Maryland defense swarmed the ball on nearly every possession, leaving a perimeter-dependent team with few open looks.
Opportunity was sitting right there as Maryland had essentially made it a 10-minute game against one of the best teams in the country. It wasn’t the near-perfect performance they needed to secure the upset, but Duke’s struggles had allowed an energized Maryland team to hang around.
And then, like we’ve seen all too many times this season, the Terps completely crumbled and Duke clutched them by the throat, squeezing the final breath out of their far-fetched NCAA tournament hopes and leaving them to wait for the NIT selection show on Sunday night.
The Blue Devils outscored them by a 24-11 margin over the the final 10 minutes as the Terps would go scoreless for nearly six minutes after Gregory’s layup, failing to bank another field goal until Pe’Shon Howard’s bucket with 4:03 to play. Maryland turned the ball over at crucial times, looking confused and out of its league as Duke seized control.
Poor free-throw shooting (15-for-28) throughout the night was magnified as a manageable deficit became too much to overcome with the Terps turning ice-cold and Duke making its free throws (14-for-15 in the second half) in the final minutes.
Despite 16 points and 16 rebounds from Jordan Williams, the sophomore’s 2-for-10 showing from the line made it a fruitless effort to get him the ball inside to draw contact. Cliff Tucker chipped in 12 points while Gregory and Howard added 10 apiece, but no one could spark the struggling Maryland offense late as the scoring drought grew longer and the deficit wider.
Terrell Stoglin continued his struggles against Duke, scoring six points and turning it over five times. His late-season maturity reverted back to the look of a frustrated freshman for much of the evening, but one would hope better days are ahead for the talented point guard against the Blue Devils.
And just like that, it was over. What had been an entertaining first 30 minutes transformed into a 16-point defeat, Maryland’s third of the season to Duke.
Truthfully, no one expected the Terps to pose much of a threat to Mike Krzyzewski’s group, who is aiming for another No.1 seed in the NCAA tournament and a possible rematch with North Carolina in the ACC tournament championship. Duke will play Virginia Tech in the semifinal Saturday while North Carolina takes on Clemson.
In contrast, Gary Williams will now lead an underwhelming group to the NIT for the fourth time in seven years. A rivalry that was once more competitive than Duke’s storied war with North Carolina — for several years, mind you — has dissipated to the sound of nine losses in the last 10 games to the Blue Devils.
After losing the ACC Player of the Year and two other key seniors who accounted for more than half of the team’s scoring a year ago, the Terps just weren’t good enough to play a full 40 minutes against the better teams in the country this season. The results speak for themselves.
The effort was there Friday night — a refreshing change after lifeless showings against Miami and Virginia to close the regular season — but the talent wasn’t there to finish the job.
As Gary Williams said following last Saturday’s loss to Virginia, “close doesn’t count, especially this time of year.”
It’s a lesson the Terps are painfully familiar with this season.
One they’ll take with them to the glamourless NIT.