Dez Wells had a career day against Duke. Credit: ETHAN HYMAN
GREENSBORO—It took Mike Krzyzewski 93 seconds to realize something wasn’t quite right.
The Duke coach called a quick timeout after two Duke misses and two Maryland baskets in attempt to fix what he saw. But the problems for Duke persisted all 40 minutes, as No. 7 seed Maryland played like a team desperate for an NCAA bid in an 83-74 win.
“They had a sense of urgency today that we didn’t,” Seth Curry said. “Because we knew we had another game to play, I felt like.”
Duke, the No. 2 seed, had no noticeable energy as Maryland (22-11) raced out to a 12-2 lead and led start to finish. Dez Wells, a Raleigh native who wasn’t recruited by Duke, scored seven of those points and finished with a career-high 30. The Blue Devils (27-5) weren’t sharp on either end of the floor. The guards weren’t defending against drives. Offensively, guys weren’t setting hard screens or running sharp cuts. And the shots weren’t falling.
The Blue Devils started 0-of-7 from 3-point range—Tyler Thornton hit the first 3 with just over 2:30 left in the first half—and finished just 4-of-25, or 16 percent, the second-worst mark on the year. Duke is 1-5 in ACC play when it shoots worse than 32 percent from deep.
Some of the early deep shots, Quinn Cook said, weren’t good looks. But the Blue Devils kept shooting.
“We’re great shooters,” Cook said. “A great shooter doesn’t think about his last missed shot. Coach wants us to shoot those shots.”
Plumlee, who finished with a team-high 19 points on an 8-of-12 effort from the floor, had a different take on the 3-point shooting.
“If shots aren’t going, we have to find other ways to win,” he said. “We have to be aggressive. We were in the bonus, we have to be aggressive and get to the free throw line, get the ball inside. There have to be answers. We just can’t keep missing.”
The Terrapins, Wells in particular, were plenty aggressive, getting to the free throw line 25 times and making 23 of those chances.
The Blue Devils had their own chances to take the lead in the second half. Maryland led by 11 early, but Duke twice came back to make it a single-possession game.
A Seth Curry 4-point play off of a 3-pointer and a converted free throw started a 8-2 run that ended with a Tyler Thornton floater that cut the deficit to 41-39. After Maryland responded, the Blue Devils again made a mini-surge, as a 3-point play from Ryan Kelly made it just a 45-44 Maryland lead. That was as close as Duke got.
“To put a run together,” Plumlee said, “You have to get stops.”
Duke didn’t do that in the second half—or at all, really—as the Terrapins shot 60.9 percent over the final 20 minutes.
The Blue Devils had an opportunity to cut pull within a single possession with two minutes to go, as Maryland led 73-67. Tyler Thornton had an open look from 3-point range, but—like most of them had—it clanged off the rim.
Had Duke not come out flat and dug itself that early hole, though, perhaps one of the second-half spurts would have been enough.
“We put ourselves in a position where it comes down to a call or one or two possessions,” Plumlee said. “The teams that are going to survive in March, they have to win for 40 minutes. They can’t depend on winning the last 12.”
The loss handed Duke its second early exit in a row from the ACC tournament, an event Duke had won 10 of the past 14 times entering this year. The Greensboro Coliseum has been particularly kind to Duke in ACC postseason play, as the Blue Devils had won the last three tournaments in the league headquarters’ backyard. Duke was 14-1 in ACC postseason play in Greensboro dating back to 1998 entering Friday’s game, with the lone exception a 2004 title game loss to Maryland.
But the Coliseum was also the site of Duke’s most recent postseason loss—last year’s shocker to Lehigh. The Blue Devils have about a week to figure out how to avoid a similar fate.
“One of the things during this time of the year, and this is what Maryland feels right now, is that if you lose, it’s final,” Krzyzewski said. “I would hope that’s something we could feel going into the NCAA tournament.”