Duke's name, rank and front court were too much for Maryland last night, and the Terrapins succumbed after a respectable struggle, 81-75, to the undefeated Blue Devils at Cole Field House in their Atlantic Coast Conference basketball opener.
Maryland started two freshmen against the third-ranked team in the country, so it was a consolation of sorts that the Terrapins managed to make it interesting for as long as they did.
Freshman guard John Johnson had 18 points and rallied the Terrapins shortly before the half, and Maryland trailed by five at halftime. First-year center Tony Massenburg did as well as could be expected in the middle against Duke's front court.
Forward David Henderson led Duke (12-0) with 25 points, and Johnny Dawkins had 21 and Mark Alarie 17. Len Bias had a game-high 28 points.
Duke took control of the came immediately after halftime and never let the Terrapins back in it, opening up leads of as many as 18 points. The Terrapins (9-3) came as close as seven on Derrick Lewis' jumper with 1:10 to go, but the Blue Devils showed why they may be the most complete team in the ACC.
Maryland had to struggle to trail by five at halftime, 39-34, after Duke led by 11 points with three minutes to go in the half.
The Blue Devils scored 10 straight points in one stretch, and Henderson's 15-footer made it 35-24 with 2:59 left.
Johnson started Maryland's comeback with six points, all on drives inside. The first came with 2:30 left, and when Alarie missed a jumper, Johnson drove along the baseline again with 1:45 left.
Bias picked up two free throws on an offensive foul by Alarie, and there was Johnson again, flipping in another layin. Massenburg's intentional foul on Alarie then gave Duke two free throws with 17 seconds left. But Jeff Baxter's 22-footer at the buzzer closed it up again.
Maryland had surprised Duke by jumping to an 11-4 lead, beginning with an alley-oop from Keith Gatlin to Bias. Bias made the shot with something approaching thunder, and he also drew a foul from Henderson to send Cole into a frenzy with the three-point play. Bias added four more points in the run.
Duke, however, took the lead on a four-point swing that brought Coach Charles G. Driesell out of his chair. With 16:04 to go, Dawkins drove to the basket on a fast break, made the shot and drew a foul on Johnson. The referee called it intentional and awarded two shots, which Dawkins made to give Duke its first lead of the night, 12-11.
It remained a one-point game until 10:52 was left. With the score tied at 17, Duke scored 10 unanswered points. The run was helped by a surprising source, Bias, who missed three straight shots.
Henderson started it off, sinking a soft jumper after Maryland's Tom Jones was called for an offensive foul to give Duke possession. Jones gave it back to the Blue Devils when he missed on a drive to the basket, and Henderson replied with another jumper.
Another miss for Maryland, this one a badly off-target 20-footer by Baxter, set up Dawkins' shot from deep in the corner. Then Bias made his three straight misses, on an airball, a misjudged layin and a routine jumper. They led to jumpers by Henderson and Tommy Amaker, the latter coming with eight minutes left to complete the run.
Johnson finally broke five scoreless minutes for Maryland with his jumper from the key with 6:55 left to keep the Terrapins within 10. It was Johnson also who would help them climb back into the game before the half. He had 11 for the period and made Driesell's decision to go with two freshmen a good one.
The Blue Devils picked up where they left off in the opening minutes of the second half. They outscored the Terrapins, 18-5, in the first six minutes.
Maryland's only baskets came from Gatlin, who hit a jumper to open the half, and from Derrick Lewis, who was otherwise quiet for the rest of the game. The Terrapins turned the ball over seven times during the disastrous span.
Henderson completed the streak with four straight points, one basket coming on a short jumper and another coming on a jam off a steal. That gave Duke its biggest lead of the night, 57-39, with 14:34 still remaining.
Bias' free throw moments later finally seemed to get Maryland going, and the Terrapins managed to close it to 10 over the next two minutes. Bias hit a jumper seconds later, and then with 12:50 to go he gave Maryland a four-point swing.
Baxter intercepted a pass at midcourt to set it up. He fed Bias, who banked a short one in and was fouled by Henderson in the process. He sank the two free throws to make it 57-47.
That was as close as Maryland would come, however.