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Duke slips past Maryland / March 15, 2009
ATLANTA - Maryland possibly proved its worth for the NCAA tournament field, but the Terps did not have enough energy down the stretch Saturday night to make yesterday’s ACC tournament finals.

Third-seeded Duke held off the Terps, completing a three-game sweep this season. The Blue Devils (27-6) ended seventh seeded Maryland’s run here Saturday in the second ACC tournament semifinal, 67-61.

The Terps (20-13) have quality wins over North Carolina, Wake Forest and Michigan State, and certainly had an argument about their place at the table when the NCAA field was announced last night. But the erratic Terps also lost to Morgan State at home, and got clobbered by Gonzaga and Georgetown, so this Gary Williams club wasn’t a sure thing heading into last night’s Selection show.

Nevertheless, Maryland had a terrific run in the ACC tournament, and the Terps offered up a valiant effort against Duke Saturday. Remember, Duke hammered the Terps 85-44 in Cameron in late January.

Duke prevailed in the third meeting between these teams, possibly helping its NCAA seeding in the process.

The Blue Devils pushed their second half lead to 13 by the 5:35 mark of the second half and held on down the stretch. The Blue Devils finished with three players in double figures, sparked by Jon Scheyer, who had 22 points. Kyle Singler added 14 and Nolan Smith added ten off the bench.

The Blue Devils had a pronounced edge at the foul line, finishing 18-for-21. Duke also continued to make key free throws down the stretch, and the Blue Devils also had an edge from beyond the arc, going 9-for-22. Maryland went 7-of-9 from the line and 4-of-15 beyond the arc, by comparison.

The Terps got 20 from Eric Hayes, 14 from Greivis Vasquez and 10 from Adrian Bowie, but could not get enough offensive consistency in the second half after trailing by two at the break.

Vasquez struggled in the semifinal, finishing 6-of-17 overall from the field and one-of-four from beyond the arc.

“It was a very difficult game. Maryland has been on a mission, and (Greivis Vasquez) had led them. I thought we played good enough defensively to limit Vasquez from dominating the game. Coming in, he ad been averaging 20 points and 10 assists in the two games. He was responsible for probably 60 to 65 percent of their points. So our focus was to try and limit him, and I think we did that. He was good today, but we stopped him from being great,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

After Vasquez sank a jumper to bring the Terps within three, at 44-41, with 10:23 remaining, Duke established enough decisive breathing room, Duke went on a 12-2 surge to build a 13-point advantage (56-43) with 5:35 left.

Duke had a key 9-0 surge inside that run, and Maryland forward Dave Neal added, “The run they made was probably the difference in the game. They got a decent lead on us and we couldn’t get back from that point on. That was probably the biggest key.”

Scheyer hurt Maryland with three-point shooting, and he also helped Duke find effective offense against the Terp zone.

Scheyer, discussing how the game opened up for him in the second half, said, “In the first half, (Maryland) did a really good job defensively. In the second half, my teammates for me a couple of good looks, and in the zone, we had some other opportunities to get some shots there. That was a big thing for us, when I was open against the zone, to try and hit those shots.”

Krzyzewski added, “And Nolan (Smith) did a really good job on top of the zone, so we could swing it to Jon.

“Jon was huge against the zone.”

Maryland, realistically, had little room for error against Duke Saturday.

Meanwhile, G. Williams noted, “We just couldn’t get it going at the start of the second half. We missed some shots that we had some pretty good looks. It really hurt us, and against a team like Duke they usually make you pay if you don’t get the ones that you should make.”

But the Terps, who looked out of the NCAA picture after a disheartening performance in their regular season finale against Virginia, found new life at the ACC tournament.

Vasquez noted, “I am proud of my team. We got a great group of guys, a great coach and we did a great job. It is never going to be easy, and it is always hard playing Duke. They play hard, they are well-coached. You’ve got to give them credit. We just didn’t execute our plays, they kind of got us out of our plays with the switching, but I thought we played hard at the end. We didn’t let the game go and we fought back but they got the win.”

Added Maryland’s Landon Milbourne, “We came down here with the thought in our head that we could win every game. Tonight, if we had played harder for forty minutes, we might have come out with the win. We are going to learn from that and hopefully fix it.”

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