The Maryland Terrapins took a massive step toward bolstering their NCAA-tournament credentials with a huge upset of the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils on Saturday night.
For the Terps, a loss wouldn’t have completely doomed them to the periphery of the Big Dance, but it certainly wouldn’t have helped matters at all. Instead, with the 83-81 win, Maryland now positions itself extremely well for the critical part of the season.
The Blue Devils, on the other hand, snapped their six-game winning streak and will almost certainly lose their No. 2 ranking by the time the newest polls are released.
Duke and Maryland have put on some real classics in the past, and this one was no different. It's also a bittersweet result for college basketball fans everywhere, with Maryland's move to the Big Ten imminent.
The game went right down to the wire.
Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon was fouled on a three-pointer, making all three free throws to tie the game at 81-81 with 16.7 seconds left.
Seth Allen then went right down to the other end of the court to get fouled on a layup attempt. With ice water in his veins, the freshman guard knocked down both free throws, which decided the game.
The Terrapins won almost in spite of themselves, turning the ball over 26 times. Maryland countered those turnovers by shooting a phenomenal percentage from the floor. As a team, the Terps shot an even 60 percent from the floor.
Center Alex Len, in particular, had a standout performance. He went 6-of-8 from the floor, scoring 19 points. He also added nine rebounds.
Len's stellar game was in stark contrast to that of Mason Plumlee. The senior forward had a performance to forget, shooting 2-of-7 from the floor and fouling out in the second half. He simply had no answer on defense for Len, and it cost Duke the game.
Duke is a school that can sometimes live and die by the three, and Saturday was a case of the latter. The Blue Devils shot only 6-of-19 from three-point range.
The loss puts even more importance on Duke’s date with the Miami Hurricanes on March 2. That’s the toughest test remaining on the Blue Devils’ schedule, and they’ll be looking to atone for the drubbing they suffered in Coral Gables. In addition, Duke's path to a regular-season ACC title looks all but blocked now that the Blue Devils have three conference losses.
Maryland has to feel much more comfortable with its postseason situation after upsetting a top team in Duke. This is the kind of signature win that Mark Turgeon and the Terps desperately needed at this stage. It’s the last game on the regular-season slate against a ranked team at this point.
As Terrapins Insider tweeted, Turgeon was very nonchalant at halftime about how much his team was turning the ball over. Clearly, he knew something everybody else didn't, as those turnovers didn't appear to be a huge concern:
Terrapins Insider @TerpsInsider
Mark Turgeon, on Maryland's turnovers: "It's just what we do"2013-2-16 23:56:38
Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis was very much in praise of Len's performance, especially with the way he overshadowed Plumlee:
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
Alex Len is quite the magician. He is making Mason Plumlee disappear.2013-2-17 00:41:39
ESPN Stats & Info acknowledged how much this game meant to Maryland in terms of finally beating a top team:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Maryland snaps an 8-game losing streak to top-5 teams and beats a top-5 Duke team for just the 2nd time in the past 11 opportunities.2013-2-17 01:37:19
ESPN's Andy Katz is one of many fans lamenting what Maryland's move to the Big Ten will do to this rivalry and how it will hurt college basketball as a whole:
Andy Katz @ESPNAndyKatz
I do think the Maryland fans will get up for the top teams in the Big Ten. But the passion for this series has been tremendous.2013-2-17 01:09:00
Katz did go on to tweet that this may not be the end of the series in the ACC:
Andy Katz @ESPNAndyKatz
Got even more clarification from ACC. Schedule for 2013-14 is not done and is still weeks away. Site/# of games of Duke-Maryland still TBA.2013-2-17 01:25:52
If this is the last time Maryland and Duke meet in the ACC, they made sure to go out with a bang.