DURHAM, N.C. – As the officiating crew crowded around the scorer’s table, peering down at the replay monitor, the truth eventually became clear to both benches and a small celebration began on one of them. Duke forward Amile Jefferson’s heave had not touched the rim, so instead of Blue Devils ball with the shot clock turned off, the Maryland men’s basketball team was given a chance to win it. The rivalry could end on its terms.
What happened next would send the Terrapins spiraling into sadness and Duke celebrating an escape, but the manner in which the final 20 seconds unfolded Saturday night would have to be digested with content. After all, Coach Mark Turgeon said later he was perfectly fine with the looks.
“I don’t know if you ever deserve to win, but I felt like our kids deserved better fate than that in the end,” he said.
Duke guard Tyler Thornton beckoned the crowd for more noise and he was obliged. In the far left corner, Jake Layman practiced his shooting form, while one fan yelled, “You suck, number 10.” And Dez Wells took the inbounds pass and began the long walk up the court.
Soon, Wells picked up steam. He drove right, which had to done with so much success during the second half, but Duke was waiting with two defenders. So Wells handed off to Seth Allen, going left, his dominant hand. Turgeon had encouraged the sophomore point guard to pass more, and once forward Charles Mitchell faked the backdoor ball screen to Jake Layman and ducked in, Allen whipped a perfect pass for a layup. And…
“He bobbled it,” Turgeon said.
Mitchell couldn’t corral the pass. One Duke defender went flying by, so Mitchell avoided him and took two hard dribbles at the hoop. He tried to go up and under, but had it swatted away with 6.4 seconds left. The Terps had more life, but this look was about as clean as they could have reasonably hoped for in that situation:
On the ensuing inbounds play, Maryland ran a single screen for Allen as a decoy and then a double screen to Layman. Wells passed in to Mitchell, who instead of handing off curled right toward the hoop. He dribbled once, then twice, then faked right, then spun left.
“We were lucky that we got that good of a shot, to be honest with you,” Turgeon said later. “The play before I thought we had a better shot. Charles had it a foot from the basket. That’s when we should have scored.
“We competed, we got the ball out of bounds under, and the guys just kind of willed their way to the basket. It just didn’t drop. I thought it was in.”
So did everyone in the building, until Mitchell’s shot teetered on the front edge and fell away. If it had dropped, Mitchell would have become an instant hero, etched into Maryland lore as the final Duke-killer. Instead, as the rebound bounced into Jefferson’s hands, Mitchell tumbled backward, clutched his face with his hands and looked up into the lens of an ESPN camera capturing the moment.
“We got a great play at the end,” Layman said. “We all believed in Chuck to make that shot.”
>> After rewatching the game, a certain officiating botch became apparent. Maryland received possession to begin the second half, then the possession arrow switched after a jump ball with roughly 17 minutes left. Here is where the mistake happened. The arrow never changed sides, for whatever reason.
And so, with less than seven minutes left and Maryland up, 56-54, another held ball underneath the Duke basket was given to the Blue Devils, which Jefferson eventually turned into a running hook shot on the ensuing possession. There was some initial confusion as to whether Seth Allen called a timeout, but the nearest referee clearly signaled for a jump ball.
Who knows how the game would have unfolded if the Terps regained possession. They could have easily committed a turnover that Duke converted into a layup. But, as it stands, the Blue Devils received an extended possession when it should have been going Maryland’s way.
I put in a call to the ACC. Waiting on word.
>> It might eventually be drowned by the heartbreak of his final shot, but Mitchell helped the Terps survive the first half. He scored eight points before intermission on 4 of 9 shooting and also grabbed five rebounds. For a prolonged stretch, until Jake Layman got hot, Maryland’s best offense was dumping passes into the post and getting hook shots from Mitchell.
Sometimes, Mitchell’s low-post game devolves into a one-man act, with little chance for entry passes coming back out of the black hole. But when Mitchell is on, he becomes an inside scoring threat the Terps do not possess. Even if he can hit four to six baby hooks and layups per game, that’s more than enough to open things up for the shooters.
“Charles played his tail off,” Turgeon said. “We wouldn’t have been where we were without him.”
>> Relative to his limited playing time during ACC play, Damonte Dodd could not have given Maryland more on Saturday night. He entered having played just once before in February and appeared for only seven minutes against Duke, but no player at any time this season has altered more shots than Dodd did in those seven minutes. Even Rodney Hood, a likely NBA lottery pick, was throwing floaters off the backboard because of how Dodd stepped up in traffic.
“Got to talk about Damonte Dodd,” Turgeon said, apropos of nothing. “I’ve been searching and he went out and changed the game. He altered shots.”
Turgeon’s only wish was that, on Jabari Parker’s ultimately game-winning dunk, Dodd had stepped up and fouled his classmate, to force Parker to earn his points from the free-throw line.
“He’s young,” Turgeon said. “I was really proud.”
Whether that translates into playing time moving forward might depend on Dodd’s ability to stay out of foul trouble, set strong screens on offense and rebound on both ends. But given Maryland’s current predicament – well on the outside of the NCAA tournament, but with an NIT berth ahead – it might make sense to start handing Dodd 10 minutes per game. If he provides what he did against Duke, that adds another dimension to the Terps defense.
“Huge,” Layman said, when asked about Dodd. “He gives us length. A good shot blocker in there. We don’t really have that with Chuck right now. When Damonte comes in, that’s what he has to do, come in with energy, block shots, get rebounds and make his free throws.”
>> Freshman Roddy Peters joined the 5 trillion club on Saturday, playing five minutes while recording zero statistics otherwise – so his box score looks like 5,000,000,000 — but Turgeon was pleased.
“I thought Roddy had his best game in a long time,” he said. “Really defended.”
Peters still hasn’t played more than nine minutes since Jan. 29, and with Allen’s stabilizing presence within the offense, it looks like that might not change. But Peters can still make an impact in limited time, serving mostly as a stopgap while Allen gets a breather.
On the defensive note, Peters at one point somehow got switched onto Hood. Hood, a redshirt sophomore forward, tried to take him off the dribble, but Peters held his own. It was a minor moment, but emblematic of the strides Peters has made on that end.
>> The Cameron Crazies really went all out on the Layman section here.
Here’s the Duke cheer sheet or dirt sheet or whatever pic.twitter.com/Nkrwhqm4wM
— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) February 15, 2014
>> Say what you will about the place, but Cameron Indoor Stadium is a wonderful building at which to watch a basketball game.
Greetings from K-ville. The music is thumping and the ground is swampy. pic.twitter.com/FxwUziz21k
— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) February 15, 2014