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Maryland Upsets Duke 83-81

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In what is almost certainly Duke's final visit to Maryland - it's hard to imagine the ACC doing much to help Maryland next season -  duke fell to Maryland, 83-81.

The two main driving forces behind the founding of the ACC will play no more than three more times unless they should meet in the NCAA tournament: once next year, likely in Durham, and perhaps this year and next in the ACC Tournament.

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Maryland is off soon for the Big Ten, convinced that the money the Midwesterners offer will always exceed their needs (see: Tennessee, University of: for a cautionary tale in this regard) and that they won't miss the ACC.

They likely won't miss the sense of being isolated up north, that the ACC more or less has historically revolved around the Big Four (you can almost leave Wake Forest out of that and make it the Triangle Three).

But when Northwestern comes calling, when Penn State visits with their pathetic basketball, when road trips are to Iowa and Nebraska, well.

Maybe they'll look back on nights like Saturday night and realize what they've given up. Because while we may not regard Maryland in the same light as we regard those who idolize a childish shade of blue, there is no question that Duke brings out the best in Maryland basketball.

At least at times, anyway.

Certainly Duke excites the fan base like no other school, with UNC not all that far behind.

There were a lot of mistakes in this game on both sides, a lot of imperfections. Too many turnovers, poorly conceived passes, and other things too.

That's the nature of college basketball. It's played by boys in the final stages (one hopes) of becoming men. Mistakes on and off the court are a natural part of their maturation. Almost anything is forgivable in the context of a life's journey, with the exception of violent or cruel behavior and particularly towards women.

Society is often reluctant to call it abberant behavior, because it involves athletes, but it is.

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Everything else, though, is just growing through trial and error. Young men grow up, eventually. Even many who are abusive as young men grow up enough to understand they behaved shamefully.

This is a long ramble but it occurred to us that one destination (surely there are many possible here) is the play of Mason Plumlee in the last two games.

For whatever reason, he hasn't played particularly well. It's possible to jump to conclusions here, but we wouldn't. No one knows what's going on in his life or with his health outside of a select few (which, by the way, doesn't include us. So don't try and read between the lines because there's nothing there).

These guys go through the same things everyone else does - breakups, personal failures, the flu, family crises.

We remember a few years ago, a guy who had a wonderful career at Duke stumbled somewhat in his last year. No one really understood it. As it turned out, his parents, to whom he was very close, were considering a divorce.

What's more human than that?

We want them to come out and play like automatons, but the truth is, when life isn't easy, players have to find a way to push all that aside and to perform. Sometimes they're bound to be just tired. They still have to try.

But it can't be easy.

As we said, we don't know why Plumlee has had two weak games in a row, but we have no doubt that he's passionate about his team and succeeding. Give him room to breathe. As fans, we owe him a lot.

As far as the overall games goes, Maryland in general  outplayed Duke, but not by that much.

Maryland led by 10 with 3:39 left but Duke managed to tie it with just :17 seconds left.

Seth Allen hit a pair of free throws with :03 seconds left on the clock and even then, Duke got a shot off which could possibly have gone in.

For a second or two, it appeared that Gene Banks, Christian Laettner, Jeff Capel, Jason Williams and Sean Dockery might have some company.

It wasn't to be this time.

Still, you'd have to be kind of thick to have missed a few important things in this game.

Duke got a poor performance out of Plumlee (just four points and three boards) but got a wonderful performance from Seth Curry (25 points on 11-17 shooting), and Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon added 18 and 16 respectively. Neither shot very well, but both showed a lot of heart and passion.

So did Tyler Thornton, who played defense with immense heart.

And with Plumlee lagging for whatever reason, Josh Hairston had one of his best games at Duke, scoring 11 points on 4-5 shooting and playing with a lot of alertness.

Actually, he's been really solid in the last two games, stepping up precisely when he's been needed.

Alex Murphy, too, stepped up a lot in this game and had two impressive baskets.

Amile Jefferson was at a disadvantage against Maryland as the only guy who isn't huge is Jake Layman.

Like anyone who pulls for Duke, we'd have loved to have won this game. Losing though isn't the end of the world, particularly when your team keeps pushing and showing a great deal of character. Despite Plumlee's bad night, the rest dug down and very nearly pulled it off.

This year's team has had some things go against it, but they keep pushing.