By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 10, 2011; 12:43 AM
DURHAM, N.C. - With tenacious defense and a relentless effort on offense, Maryland came close Sunday night to toppling Duke, its nemesis and the nation's No. 1 team, surging to a six-point lead in a game that saw a half-dozen lead changes.
Instead, the Terrapins had to settle for putting a scare in a team that has manhandled opponents since the college basketball season opened.
In the end, Duke simply had too many skilled shooters who proved too tough to subdue and prevailed, 71-64, at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Maryland did a tremendous job muzzling the ACC's leading scorer, Nolan Smith, who was held to 18 points, ending his streak of five consecutive games with 20 or more.
But Kyle Singler filled the breach, leading all players with 25 points. And it was an artful collaboration between them, with the Blue Devils ahead by five with 55 seconds remaining, that put the game out of reach. Smith worked the clock until the possession all but expired, then dished to Singler, who drilled a three-pointer that made it 70-62.
For Maryland (10-5, 0-2), it was yet another game rife with moral victories. The Terps held Duke to its fewest points (71) and worst shooting percentage (40.3) all season. And Maryland's relentless fight, as well as Coach Gary Williams's game plan, drew unstinting praise from Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who called it "a huge win" and the Devils' hardest-fought of the year.
"Gary's a great friend, but he's a great coach," Krzyzewski said. "He did everything possible to take Nolan out of the game. . . . We haven't been in a game like that."
But with ACC play under way, it's time the Terps turn moral victories into actual ones, with the NCAA selection committee unlikely to be impressed by single-digit losses - even against ranked teams.
"Our guys are coming along," Williams said. "We're better now than we were in November. And that's the key for us the rest of the way. Even though we didn't win, I think this game can give us some positives for the rest of the year. Hopefully were growing as a team."
Maryland was led by sophomore center Jordan Williams, whose 23 points and 13 rebounds extended his streak of double-doubles to nine. Senior swingman Cliff Tucker was the only other Terp in double figures, scoring 14 (while grabbing seven rebounds) in 29 minutes.
It was a miserable shooting night for freshman Terrell Stoglin (1 of 10 from the floor, including whiffs on all six three-point attempts). The point guard and finished with five assists, three points and three turnovers.
Entering the game, Duke was statistically superior in nearly everything but rebounding and shot-blocking. Maryland's strongest play, then, was to limit the Blue Devils' attempts.
It was a daunting task.
Duke (15-0, 2-0) trotted onto the court like giant sequoias, with four players 6 feet 9 or taller.
Stoglin found himself pitted against Duke's veteran Smith, of Upper Marlboro, the ACC's leader in scoring and assists.
Smith opened the scoring. And Maryland couldn't hit anything, it seemed, but the side of the backboard. The Terps made just one basket in the first 5 minutes 33 seconds, with Jordan Williams jamming in a dunk.
Williams drew his second foul with 12:43 remaining in the first half and was forced to sit, the Terps trailing 10-6. He was the only Terp to have scored to that point. Still, Maryland kept things close with great defense.
Dino Gregory gave Maryland its first lead with a jumper with five minutes remaining in the first half.
Singler tipped in an errant shot by Andre Dawkins to send the Devils to the locker room with a 32-31 lead. By then, five Terps had two fouls each.
Maryland opened the second half with seven consecutive points - all scored by Williams and Sean Mosley - to take a 38-32 lead and prompt a Duke timeout.
"They were obviously ready," Smith said of the Terps' scoring burst. "They had tons of confidence, and they came out and hit us right away. So we were like, 'All right! This is a ballgame! Let's just relax and play our game.' "
Turning to a smaller lineup gave Duke the spark it was looking for. Freshman point guard Tyler Thornton (Gonzaga) entered the game, freeing Smith to focus on shooting, and an 11-0 Duke run followed. Duke sophomore Seth Curry was also key in that stretch, scoring 12 second-half points.
The stands erupted in earsplitting howls. The pep band blared. Duke students gyrated, clapped, cheered, heckled and screamed all the louder as Duke pulled away late in the second half.