The phrase "on the bubble," is one of the more recent additions to the glossary of college basketball, and that is exactly where the Maryland Terrapins find themselves after Saturday night's 90-83 loss to eighth-ranked Duke at Cole Field House.
The Terrapins (13-8, 4-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) are on the bubble -- on the periphery of NCAA tournament bid contention.
"We're really on the edge," said Maryland's Derrick Lewis, who finished the Duke game with 21 points and a slightly twisted ankle, though he said it would not keep him out of action. "I don't think we can afford to lose too many more games."
Lewis seems correct on that point. The Terrapins have six regular season games remaining. They play Wednesday night at Georgia Tech and Saturday afternoon at North Carolina.
The Georgetown Hoyas will see if they can avenge a 64-58 loss to Villanova when the teams meet at 7:30 tonight at Capital Centre. The Hoyas (16-6, 6-5 in the Big East) have not been as consistent as most of Coach John Thompson's teams, but he's taking it in stride.
"At first I was getting a little bit frustrated and depressed," Thompson said after the Hoyas' 71-69 win over Syracuse Saturday at Capital Centre. "I had to have a little conversation with myself, and I said I've got to make this into fun. We're going to start gimmicking and switching defenses. I said, 'Hey, let's have some fun because these are the kids that worked their butts off for me.' "
If Maryland doesn't solve its rebounding problems, NCAA tournament discussion could become moot. Saturday night, they were outrebounded, 22-9, in the first half, which is when Duke took the lead for good. After leading, 44-38, at the half, the Blue Devils eventually led by 12 points. The Terrapins cut the deficit to four points on several occasions, but could never get within a basket.
"I thought we played well enough to win," Lewis said, "but at times we didn't execute and we definitely didn't rebound."
Duke was led by DeMatha graduate Danny Ferry, who scored a career-high 33 points. What further hurt Maryland was that 6-5 forward Robert Brickey slithered inside to grab five offensive rebounds (seven total), and scored 21 points. Kevin Strickland had 19 points and led all rebounders with 10.
"We thought rebounding was the key," said Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski, whose team relies on transition baskets for much of its scoring. And in Maryland's 72-69 victory Jan. 16 in Durham, N.C., the Terrapins outrebounded Duke, 38-27.
The loss was Maryland's fourth straight at home.
Duke also beat Maryland in the recruitment of Bladensburg High School's Brian Davis. The 6-3 senior guard said before the game that he would be heading to Durham because of the quality of the school and Krzyzewski's commitment not to bring in another shooting guard this year.
Elsewhere tonight, East Carolina will venture into Bender Arena to play American, and North Carolina-Wilmington will be at Navy.