It contained all the makings of a rout, the Maryland men’s basketball team set up for another long day on the road. Miami had destroyed top-ranked Duke by 27 points three days earlier, so here was the Blue Devils’ chance to make amends, to return to Cameron Indoor Stadium and feed the beast that disappeared down near South Beach.
That these Terrapins, again starting two freshmen and three sophomores, were behind by just eight points at halftime – without a benched Seth Allen, no less – seemed nearly miraculous. They scrapped hard and executed offensively, no longer simply giving away turnovers like the basketball was on fire. The rout arrived later than anticipated, but after Maryland hung around for 25 minutes it was on for the final 15 in a 84-64 Duke win, the most points the Terps have allowed this season.
“I’ll state the obvious: Duke was great,” Coach Mark Turgeon said. “They were really good. We weren’t bad, for about 25 minutes, that’s as well as we’ve played on the road since the Northwestern game. We really competed and hung around.
“We weren’t that bad. At the end, we went a little crazy with our shot selection and things, trying to catch up too quick. I think all the credit goes to Duke. They bounced back, which you kind of figured they would.”
The surprise was Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon shooting 5 of 5 from beyond the arc in the first half and finishing with a career-high 25 points. The surprise was fellow freshman Amile Jefferson getting to the line more times in the first half (nine) than all Maryland’s players did combined (six). The surprise was Maryland matching the intensity and fiery atmosphere, even as Duke kept responding with potentially back-breaking runs.
But flashes of the inexperienced, immature Terps still reared their ugly head. Defensive lapses led to Sulaimon’s barrage. After attempting three first-half field goals, Duke forward Mason Plumlee finished with 19 points, leaking out on the offensive boards for easy putbacks. Maryland still committed 14 turnovers, forcing just four.
“We competed at a pretty tough environment against a team that was really ready to play,” Turgeon said. “Our young kids played pretty well. Shaq [Cleare] and Charles [Mitchell] and Jake [Layman]. We’ve been throwing the ball everywhere. We didn’t throw the ball everywhere tonight, except for the second half where we had a stage. We were better against tremendous pressure in an inspired arena today. And we rebounded. We really rebounded again, except for the start of the second half. I think if we could have gotten a few defensive rebounds in there, we could have hung around a little longer.
“A lot of positives. I know it’s hard to say that when you look at the final score. But Duke never quit. They played 40 minutes of really, really good basketball. Even in the last minute they were good.”
Perhaps it was pent-up aggression, finally unleashed at the worst possible time for the Terps. They’re now3-4 in the ACC with another rough road trip to Florida State looming next week. They were better on the road Saturday, but the black marks still remained. Only Dez Wells and Mitchell finished in double figures with 13 points apiece. Alex Len attempted just six shots, finishing with eight points and 10 rebounds. Nick Faust was 3 for 12 from the field, and is shooting 26.7 percent over the past five games.
The ultimate takeaways from the first half, Wells said, were minimal, even if the Terps matched blows with Allen, their third-leading scorer in conference games, relegated to the bench.
“There’s nothing we learned,” Wells said. “We already knew how good we were, that we can compete with anybody in the country. With that said, we have to get better from here and be ready for the adjustments teams will make on us.”