Forced to play almost the entire game without injured Albert King, Maryland ended its basketball season last night, losing to Duke, 81-69, in a game it looked like the Terrapins could win until the final five minutes.
King, bothered by a bad back, played just two minutes and the Blue Devils, led by Jim Spanarkel's 21 points and Eugene Banks' 17, advanced to tomorrow's 4:30 p.m. final against the winner of last night's North Carolina-Wake Forest game. It will be the first ACC final since 1969 for Duke.
The Terps, finishing their season 15-13, were led by Lawrence Boston, who had 18 points in his final college appearance.
King, who sprained his ankle during the second half in Wednesday night's triple-overtime win over North Carolina State, experienced back spasms during pregame warmups and even though he was introduced as a starter Jo Jo Hunter opened in his place.
Duke's Mike Gminski had no apparent physical problems, but played the first half as if in a trance, shooting 1 of 10 from the floor, including three missed layups.
His performance was the major reason the Terps trailed only 33-27 after shooting 43 percent during the first half. Duke, largely because of Gminski, was even worse, hitting just 40 percent.
The Blue Devils' two leading scorers, Jim Spanarkel and Gminski shot 2 of 17 combined.
The Terp quickly closed to within one after four minutes of the second half and when Eugene Banks picked up his fourth foul with 16:27 left, Lefty Driesell's team sensed a chance to win.
Duke was able to widen its lead back to 51-46 as Gminsni played up to his reputation as the ACC's best center, making four baskets the first six minutes of the second half.
But the Blue Devils continued to miss over the Terrapin zone and, with Banks on the bench, Maryland controlled the inside.
King finally entered the game with 10:30 to play and the Terps trailing, 54-50.
Ironically, it was at that point that Duke opened a bit of daylight, taking a 60-52 lead on two Gminski foul shots with 9:02 left. Banks returned with 8:23 left and made two suick hopes to build the lead to 64-54 with 6:24 left.
In the meantime, King had gone back out after hobbling noticeably and kicked his chair in frustration as he came to the bench.
A Banks steal and feed to Spanarkel for a layup made it 66-54 before a basket by Lawrence Boston with 5:22 left broke the drought for the Terps.
If the Terps were ready to fold, Duke wouldn't let them. Twice Banks missed layups on perfect alley-oop passes and when Kenny Dannard was called for charging with 3:38 left, Maryland had a chance to cut the gap to six.
But Ernest Graham and Hunter missed jump shots and a Dennard dunk at the other end made it 70-60 before a Hunter drive made it 70-62 as the clock wound under three minutes.
Two free throws by Banks opened the margin to 10 again but Hunter kept Maryland in contention with his 16th point to make it 72-64 with 1:32 left.
GRaham tackled banks going in for a layup on the ensuing play and Steve Gray came off the bench to make both free throws and the Duke margin again was 10.