It was a valiant effort turned in by the once-dormant Maryland Terrapins’ offensive attack last night, but the Terrapins (17-10, 6-7 ACC) fell to their ACC rival Duke Blue Devils 78-67 at Comcast Center.
Their NCAA tournament hopes have taken a serious blow, and the Terps will have to sweat it out to see if by some miracle their strength of schedule swings the pendulum their way.
Let me interject to say, though, how gratifying it was to watch two expertly-coached teams fight for supremacy among their peers.
They have earned my respect for a job well done.
This game was a true testament to the depth of talent that exists in this competitive college basketball environment.
Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez followed up his nearly-flawless performance against then-No. 3 North Carolina with just 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
Kudos to the rest of the Maryland team for regrouping after Vasquez fouled out of the game with more than three minutes left in regulation.
Greivis missed nearly 10 minutes of action in the second half due to his lack of discipline. He owes his teammates a big thank you for showing some resolve, despite losing their leading scorer at a crucial stage of the game.
Maryland forward Landon Milbourne awoke from his offensive slumber to net 19 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Also, scoring in double figures was guard Adrian Bowie with 14 points and top reserve Eric Hayes added 10 points.
Duke (23-5, 9-4 ACC) had a specific game plan and found it hard to find the proper execution due to Maryland’s relentless pressure defense.
The Blue Devils wanted to keep Maryland on their heels and bury them with long-range perimeter shooting.
It was not until they made a game-changing 16-5 run with just under seven minutes remaining that their three-point shooting become a factor.
Duke shot 42.1 percent from beyond the arc for the game.
During their second half run, they nailed three of four three-point attempts to take the lead for good. The well-rounded Blue Devils persevered through the Maryland press in the end.
They had four players score in double figures.
Sensational standout player Gerald Henderson played 37 minutes of gritty basketball.
He finished the game with 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting, including making several key shots as the lead changed hands seven times in the second half.
It was a coming out party for freshman guard Elliot Williams. For the season, he has averaged 3.7 points per game. In this matchup, he poured in 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Forward Kyle Singler and guard Jon Scheyer added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski expected this game to be highly competitive and prepared his team for a gladiator-type battle in the beltway.
“The last time we played, they were really going in a different direction,” said Krzyzewski. “We knew it would be a vintage Maryland crowd. This is a tough place to win.”
Maryland dropped their home record to 14-3 on the season. The Terrapins’ support system was dressed and ready to provide energy for their fearless team.
Fans held up signs with taunting messages (one camera caught a Maryland fan holding a sign that read “Duke Hates Puppies”), but for the most part the crowd behavior was refreshingly respectable.
This game was intense from start to finish. Maryland, in all honesty, will likely make their fourth trip out of the last five seasons to the NIT once the regular season is concluded.
Last night they came together and lost to a worthy opponent.
I cannot wait for next year’s class to make all the Maryland faithful come back to College Park with renewed energy.
Till then, we have March Madness to keep us on the edge of our seats.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.