Duke's win over Maryland may not have been a thing of beauty in some respects, but in other ways it may have been an ideal game for this team at this point.
Maryland played very well until the last 12:36 when the game got away from them a bit. It wasn't really surprising - Maryland coach Mark Turgeon has fretted about exactly this sort of thing frequently during his maiden season in College Park.
And Alex Len's struggles continue: the promising big man picked up two fouls almost immediately and played with a marked lack of confidence.
That wasn't a problem for Terrell Stoglin, who has a bright future, and wasn't much of a problem for Nick Faust, who hit a couple of ridiculous shots in the second half.
But it was a tough game for James Padgett and Ashton Pankey, who are the bulk of Maryland's game until Len gets comfortable.Â Sean Mosley had his moments, but he too was overwhelmed by the time the game ended.
They were good enough to push Duke and to force them to show some resolve at the end, but not good enough - yet - to seriously challenge the Devils.
For Duke, not surprisingly, the big men, especially Mason Plumlee, had their way with the Terps. MP2 finished with 23 points on 9-13 from the floor and - wonderfully - 5-5 from the line.Â He and Miles combined for a vintage Plumlee Daily Double, as Miles finished with seven points and four boards.Â The brotherly total: 30 points and 16 boards.
Kelly finished with 14 points and four boards. Total the three up and Duke got 43 points and 20 boards from their big men.
The guards were not quite as productive: Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Austin Rivers and Tyler Thornton combined for 28 points, but shot just 9-29 for 31%.
Three point shooting was nearly catastrophically bad: one of Maryland's goals was to limit Duke's perimeter scoring and that they did, holding the guards to just 1-13 from three point range for 7.6%.
Kelly tossed in two threes (2-3) and boosted the overall percentage to 18.8%.
On a brighter note, Duke was 17-18 from the line, with the only miss coming from Miles Plumlee.
Obviously Maryland wanted to win and nearly played well enough to do it. They've come a long way in a hurry and now, instead of looking hopelessly outmatched, look like a well-coached team which simply isn't as talented.
They didn't win, but a game like this should give the team and its fans some cause for optimism.Â Maryland is going to continue to improve.
Duke played without Michael Gbinije and Quinn Cook, both of whom stayed home with an illness, and both guys could have helped: Gbinije could have contributed some reliable perimeter defense and Cook, who has been a steady point guard lately with streaks of spectacular play, would have been playing at home and might have had a major impact.
The main thing to take away from this contest is how Duke handled the endgame.
To a certain extent, it was preordained or at least to be expected, because that's where Maryland is.Â But you still have to get it done, and Duke did. They'll have tougher situations later, and this game will help prepare them for those when they come.
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