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Jim Sumner On Duke-Maryland, Round I

Technically, Duke's ACC season began last Sunday, when Duke hosted and defeated Miami.

But it just didn't feel like an ACC game, not a full-bore, fist-clenching game. Perhaps it was the holiday hangover, perhaps the fact that the students weren't back yet from the break, perhaps it was that Miami really is not-our-rival.

None of those qualifiers crept in concerning Duke's 71-64 win over Maryland last night at a full, totally rocking Cameron.

We were all sort of wondering what would happen when Duke faced real game pressure without Kyrie Irving, a close game in the second half against a confident, well-coached team. Duke didn't play well for several stretches last night. But faced with their biggest deficit of the season, Duke responded with about sixteen minutes of really solid, sometimes inspired basketball.

Maryland came to Cameron 10-4, with the wins being games they were supposed to win and the losses games they were supposed to lose. The last team to defeat Duke was replacing three senior starters, including Greivis Vasquez, who sat behind the Maryland bench and seemed to be having a good time.

Sophomore center Jordan Williams has been playing about as well as any post player in the country. So, when he sat down with two fouls and Duke up 12-6, it looked like Duke might have the visitors on the ropes. Not an unreasonable assumption. After all, Duke defeated Maryland in Cameron by 21 points last season, 41 points the season before.

But the Terps dug down and hung in, mostly on the defensive end of the ball. Maryland pinched Nolan Smith from the get-go, forcing him into tough shots and turnovers.

The strategy might have backfired if Duke could have knocked down some jumpers. But except for two Andre Dawkins shots, one a 3, every single one of Duke's first-half points came inside or from the foul line. Gary Williams said it was the best defense Maryland had played this season.

Duke ended the first half with 10 turnovers, 1-10 shooting on 3s, and only five attempted foul shots, two of which were missed.

Still, Duke took a 32-31 lead into intermission, largely on the efforts of Kyle Singler, who played like a national player of the year candidate. Singler had 14 points at the half.

As a general rule, Duke follows a disappointing first half by coming out of the break with renewed intensity. But it was Maryland that lit up the second-half scoreboard early. Jordan Williams got a three-point play inside, Sean Mosley hit a jumper and a tip-in, Andre Dawkins turned it over twice. In less than a minute, Maryland had gone on a 7-0 run to open up a 38-32 lead. Duke was in trouble.

Mike Krzyzewski had seen enough. He called a timeout. "We didn't collect ourselves at the half. Whatever we told them at the half wasn't working. We didn't run what we were supposed to run. For the first 24 minutes, they were the aggressor. Then we started being aggressive. The defense pushed up the intensity, then the offense caught up."

It helped that Nolan Smith started converting inside. Smith said the key was to "just play my game. Just take strong shots, and stay in that aggressive mindset."

But two reserves sparked the comeback. After a scoreless first half, Seth Curry hit a bucket to make it 38-34, Duke's first second-half points, 3:44 into the half. Singler followed with a 3, then Curry made two of three foul shots to put Duke back on top 39-38.

But Curry has been a rotation player, a key contributor to Duke's great start. Freshman guard Tyler Thornton didn't play a second against Miami and didn't get off the bench in the first half against Maryland.

So, some quizzical looks likely accompanied Thornton's entrance into the game with 17:23 left and Duke still down 38-32. "At that moment, I felt like we needed a spark," Krzyzewski said.

While Curry was jump-starting Duke's dormant offense, Thornton was drawing charges and disrupting the Maryland offense. "Those two kids turned the game around for us," Krzyzewski said. "We could have been dead in the water."

Duke went on an 11-0 run to go up 43-38. But Maryland refused to go away. Williams was abusing Duke inside, while senior Cliff Tucker hit a pair of huge 3s, the second of which left Duke up 53-52, with 7:10 left.

Duke made the big plays down the stretch, executing its delay game with great effectiveness. Smith knocked down four foul shots and hit a lay-up with the shot clock at five. That made it 67-60. After a Williams jumper, Singler hit the dagger, a 3 with two seconds left on the shot clock. That made it 70-62 and sealed Maryland's fate.

Singler ended the game with 25 points, a season-high 10 rebounds, and some tough D. Smith scored 18, with eight assists but also turned it over five times and missed 13 of 18 field-goal attempts.

Curry, Dawkins and Thornton all had solid games, with Thornton coming up with four steals in 12 minutes. Miles Plumlee had eight rebounds and a huge block late, but Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly struggled, both with execution and decision making.

Still, a win is a win is a win. I've been watching ACC hoops too long to dismiss any ACC win too easily. Krzyzewski called the game a great learning experience. "They had a great game plan. They did everything they could to take Nolan out of the game. We're a good but young team that has to gain experience, gain maturity. We're trying to find out who we are."

Gary Williams added "Duke took a pretty big hit and came back. They're really good."


Duke will now try to find out who they are away from the friendly confines of Cameron. Five of Duke's next seven games are on the road, starting with Wednesday's game at Florida State. The Maryland rematch is February 2, a full week before the first Duke-North Carolina game.

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