Desperately needing a win to keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, Maryland outshot Duke to an 83-74 win in the ACC quarterfinals on Friday night.
With the victory, and with so many bubble teams around the nation falling, the Terrapins, who will play North Carolina in the second semifinal on Saturday, instantly reenter the at-large-bid conversation.
Duke, which entered the game undefeated with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, no longer has a shot at the overall No. 1 seed and could very easily drop to a No. 2 seed in the coming days.
The Terrapins got out to a crucial quick start, fueled by this Dez Wells dunk:
Unlike NBA Jam, it only took that one basket to set the electric sophomore on fire. He knocked down his next six shots and led the Terps to a 34-26 halftime lead with 16 points and three assists.
He finished with 30 points on just 13 shots to go with six rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Did Maryland earn an NCAA bid?
It appeared Duke finally woke up in the second half, as a Ryan Kelly three-point play cut Maryland's lead to one with just under 14 minutes remaining.
But the Terps, fueled by some timely Shaquille Cleare baskets, pulled back away, hung on and answered every subsequent Duke mini-comeback en route to the must-have victory.
In the end, Nick Faust and Jake Layman chipped in 10 points apiece, Seth Allen had 10 and five assists off the bench and the Terps shot a gaudy 51.0 percent from the field.
Duke, meanwhile, got big performances from Mason Plumlee (19 points) and Rasheed Sulaimon (16 points off the bench), but shot just 41.5 percent from the field and an anemic 16.0 percent from deep.
Big fellas Cleare (6'9", 265 pounds) and Charles Mitchell (6'8", 260 pounds) made a nice impact off the bench for Mark Turgeon, and David Morrison of the Greensboro News & Record noticed some important chemistry between the two:
Maryland's main #widebutts have a "Bash Brothers" thing going. Mitchell flexed his biceps and pointed to Cleare after Cleare made the hook.— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) March 16, 2013
Wells, who was fantastic against Wake Forest on Thursday, continued his scorching ACC-tourney play in the first half (via Hayes from the David Glenn Show):
Dez Wells, in 3 halves of ACC Tournament basketball: 14-19 from the field, 4-4 on 3's. Quite the performance, so far— David Glenn Show (@DavidGlennShow) March 16, 2013
Some, including Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal, didn't even recognize the sometimes-inconsistent star:
I want to know who is masquerading as Dez Wells tonight.— Adam Fromal (@fromal09) March 15, 2013
Grantland's Shane Ryan eloquently summed up Duke's late-second-half shooting:
Ice f'ing cold.— Shane Ryan (@ShaneRyanHere) March 16, 2013
Former Duke star Jay Williams not only complimented the Terrapins on the near-lights-out performance, but he looked forward to Duke's potential landing spot in the Big Dance:
Maryland absolutely putting on a show right now vs Duke in the Quarterfinals of the ACC. This loss could definitely affect Duke for a 1 seed— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) March 16, 2013
Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner noted that Maryland, in addition to the key win, has gotten some help this week:
That said re: Maryland, when I said they were auto bid or bust, I didn't expect all 28 teams ahead of them to lose every game left.— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) March 16, 2013