Duke 75, Maryland 70

Two days after earning a dominant victory to take first place in the ACC, Maryland fell behind late in the first half and never was able to catch up, losing to eighth-ranked Duke, 75-70, tonight at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Instead of essentially eliminating the Blue Devils from the ACC regular season title race and putting themselves in excellent position to defend their crown, the Terrapins were bullied around inside and had difficulty finding ways to score.

It didn't help Maryland (16-7, 8-4) that Duke forward Dahntay Jones was nearly unstoppable at times, scoring 21 points, including several key baskets in the second half.

The Terrapins trailed by 10 with less than six minutes to play and by seven in the last two minutes, but still had a chance to tie.

After a basket by Ryan Randle brought Maryland to 73-70 with 43 seconds left, the Terrapins called timeout. Instead of fouling and putting the Blue Devils on the line when its press was unsuccessful, Maryland played solid defense and got a turnover as the shot clock wound down.

Out of timeouts, point guard Steve Blake dribbled up the court and found himself double-teamed on the left wing. His last-gasp shot was well short.

"They have great heart, they're a championship-level team. For our kids to have come out on top, I'm very proud of our basketball team," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

After handling Wake Forest by 23 on Monday, Maryland was unable to move forward. Its loss creates a with Duke (18-4, 8-4) for second place in the ACC. Wake Forest (7-3 ACC) is first. Since the teams do not play each other again this season, there promises to be plenty of scoreboard watching the rest of the way.

The Terrapins struggled offensively throughout the game, staying close in part because of their free throw shooting. After making its final 18 attempts against Wake Forest, Maryland made its first 15 tonight. However, a miss by Drew Nicholas when Maryland led 57-53 was followed by three consecutive missed free throws as Duke was able to build a 67-57 lead.

However, Maryland rallied, largely behind the play of Blake (12 points, 9 assists), who has been much more assertive offensively of late.

Blake rebounded a missed free throw by teammate Jamar Smith, drove and fed Smith, who was fouled and made two free throws. On the Terrapins' next possession, Blake drove and fed Ryan Randle for a dunk. Blake missed a jumper, but the next time down the floor fed Calvin McCall for a three-pointer from the right side.

After Duke center Shelden Williams, who was splendid for much of the game, missed two free throws, Blake dribbled through traffic and fed Randle for another basket. With more than three minutes left, Maryland was within 68-66.

The Terrapins had several excellent chances to get closer, but failed to rebound three missed shots on Duke's ensuing possession and Jones eventually made two free throws for a 70-66 lead with 2 minutes 17 seconds left.

Maryland turned the ball over on its next possession. Duke then ran down the shot clock and Daniel Ewing made a long three-pointer from the right wing. The Blue Devils' lead was 73-66 with 1:31 left and a 26th consecutive home victory was in sight.

It was a feel-good victory for Duke, which had been perfect until the teams' first meeting of the season, an 87-72 Terrapins victory, a game that started a run of four Duke losses in nine games. Of late, Duke had struggled largely because of its offensive struggles. Entering tonight's game, the Blue Devils were shooting 37.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three-point range in February.

The shooting woes continued from three-point range in the first half, but Duke was plenty good from inside the arc and took a 37-33 halftime lead.

The Blue Devils made just 2 of 13 three-point attempts, but were successful on 14 of their 23 other shots. Williams and Jones each scored 10 points in the half. Williams was a force at both ends of the court, with four of the team's eight blocks.

Randle, Maryland's center, had been quite a presence with 15 points and 17 rebounds in the teams' first meeting, but Randle appeared hesitant to attack inside tonight. Several times the 6-foot-9 senior faked shots instead of going right up with the ball, often leading to blocked shots or missed scoring opportunities.

Dahntay Jones slams 2 of his 21 points as eighth-ranked Duke won its 26th consecutive game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.Duke's Dahntay Jones hugs Chris Duhon as Terps' Steve Blake, left, Calvin McCall walk away during final seconds.