By Liz Clarke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 3, 2011; 1:04 AM
It had been three years since Duke lost back-to-back games to unranked opponents.
And despite the best efforts of Maryland sophomore center Jordan Williams, who registered yet another double-double, and the deafening cheers of 17,950 fervent Terrapins fans, that streak remained intact Wednesday at Comcast Center, where Duke pulled off a regular season sweep of the Terps with an 80-62 victory.
Coming off its worst defeat of the season - a 93-78 loss to St. John's - Duke was simply more than Maryland could handle. The Blue Devils exposed the limitations of the Terps' offense and overwhelmed the defense by drilling 52 percent of its shots - including 10 three-pointers.
With the defeat, Maryland (14-8, 4-4 ACC) might have let its last chance for a signature victory this season slip away. The Terps have yet to beat a ranked team, with only No. 23 North Carolina left on their regular season docket.
That saddles Maryland with serious doubts about its prospects for an NCAA tournament bid and raises the stakes considerably on its showing in the ACC tournament next month.
Maryland cut an 18-point deficit to five with less than 10 minutes remaining. But Duke wasn't rattled, with senior forward Kyle Singler inflicting the most damage, scoring 13 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.
Coach Gary Williams didn't hide his disappointment, saying that his team did "a very poor job" on defense. He was even more dismayed by his squad's lack of fight at the outset and the failure to seize the momentum after pulling within five points.
"I didn't think we were playing with the energy necessary to play a team as good as Duke," Williams said before turning to focus to his own job as coach.
"You try to have the pulse of your team - to get them ready, ready to play where they come out flying. There is a reason [for the flat start]. But you have to get to the reason. Find the reason."
Jordan Williams, however, said he didn't think the outcome had to do with a lack of effort on the Terps' part.
"We were fighting," said Williams, who led the Terps with 20 points and 10 rebounds. "We were fighting. We could have just given up when we were down. . . . They're the number five team in the country. It's not like we just lost to a terrible team out there."
On a particularly poor shooting night for Maryland, with the Terps making just 20 of 5o field goals (40 percent), senior guard Adrian Bowie was the only other Terp in double figures, scoring 11 points.
Duke (20-2, 7-1) has now won eight of its last nine games against Maryland.
Wednesday's game was the latest installment of Maryland's most heated rivalry. And after Maryland's victory over Duke at Comcast last March turned ugly, with revelry morphing into rioting along Route 1, university officials made sportsmanship a priority.
Nonetheless, Duke players were met with boos, jeers and at least one hand-lettered sign that read "NERDS" when they trotted onto court for warmups.
Duke scored first, and Jordan Williams answered quickly.
But Duke battled harder for its shots and had four rebounds to Maryland's none at the first timeout, determined to get something out of every offensive possession.
An 8-0 run by Duke drained life from the arena until a dunk by Dino Gregory fired up the crowd again. It was short-lived.
Duke surged to a 10-point lead, 31-21, on successive three-pointers.
With plenty of big bodies to spare, Duke used them to send Williams to the free throw line. Known for his shakiness from the stripe, Maryland's center stood tall, hitting 12 of 16 from the line. Apart from that, Maryland's offense was thin.
In the time Duke made 14 field goals (six of them three-pointers), Maryland made just seven. Free throws accounted for 20 of their 62 points.
Duke took a 38-23 lead on its sixth three-pointer.
Williams picked up his second foul and sat with 1 minute 51 seconds remaining in the first half.
But after Duke's Mason Plumlee whiffed on two free throws, Cliff Tucker grabbed the rebound and raced downcourt for an easy bucket, sending Maryland to the break on a 10-2 run.
Tucker scored Maryland's first three-pointer six minutes into the second half. But each time the Terps threatened, Duke replied in kind to keep its double-digit lead intact.