Game Notes: Duke at Maryland
Duke sweeps the turtles.
by Aaron Kaplowitz
During the ‘90s, Duke-North Carolina was, indisputably, college basketball’s premier rivalry, and among the greatest in sports. To be sure, there is still no love lost when those teams meet at least twice a year. But a Jason Williams layup with 54 seconds remaining in Duke and Maryland‘s 2001 match-up ignited one of the most astonishing comebacks in NCAA history, and detoured the best rivalry in college basketball away from Tobacco Road for the next decade.
Jason Williams’s “Miracle Minute” devastated the home crowd at College Park, the scene of Wednesday night’s game. Duke, the fifth-ranked team in the country, was coming off a loss to St. John’s in Madison Square Garden, an undeniably “flat” performance according to Coach Mike Krzyzewski. And with upstart Maryland rolling off its third straight conference win, the stage was set for another promising chapter in this rivalry.
For Maryland students, Wednesday night’s game was the most anticipated of the year. Win or lose, rain or shine, school officials were expecting post-game riots, and thus conceived a plan to quell the rowdiness with an organized bonfire on Chapel Field. (A young man in the student section flaunted a sign: Ri – ot (Noun) 1. What we do best 2. What we’re doing regardless) The anticipation of the night ahead added an extra level of energy to the Comcast Center. Maryland fans, dressed in yellow and red, overwhelmed the arena with energy and wrath.
Both teams fed off the fans’ early intensity and opened the game with extra oomph. When the Comcast jumbo-screen zoomed in on Wizards rookie John Wall, a freshman last year at Kentucky, his eyes, behind posh glasses, carried a longing look.
After trading baskets for the first nine minutes, Duke senior Kyle Singler, with his back to the basket, pivoted and faded to his left, and knocked down a short jumper to put the Blue Devils ahead 15-14. The Singler basket opened a 10-2 run that Nolan Smith capped with a put-back off his own miss, adding an extra point on the line with the foul. Minutes later, Andre Dawkins drilled a three from the right corner to stretch Duke’s lead to 15, at 38-23, quieting the crowd.
To open the game, the Maryland offense flowed through sophomore standout Jordan Williams, who muscled for position on the blocks and crashed the glass with reckless abandon. But Duke’s Mason Plumlee was making Williams earn his points, and, not wanting the game to get out of hand heading into the half, Maryland needed – and received – contributions from Williams’ teammates. Highlighted by a smooth fast-break lay-in by James Padgett, the Terps pulled off a small run of their own, and graciously headed into the locker room only down by seven, 40-33.
Duke opened the second half with a three from Nolan Smith, that forced Maryland to extend its defense, clearing the way for Singler to go to work. The senior from Oregon poured in 11 straight points on an array of long- and medium-range jumpers. Watching Singler — cool, calm, and collected — operate in the boisterous atmosphere, one gets the impression that he has been here before.
With less than 10 minutes to play, Maryland cut Duke’s lead to five, but would not get closer. A soaring one-handed dunk from Plumlee pushed the lead back to seven, and two three-pointers from Dawkins put the game out of reach. Duke won convincingly, 80-62.
“Mason’s dunk on the baseline and Andre’s two threes were the difference makers for us,” Krzyzewski said after the game. “To come on the road three days later (after the St. Johns loss) and win is really a huge thing for our kids.
“We grew up and got tougher today.”
The win put Duke at 7-1 in the ACC, adding intrigue to next Wednesday’s game against an old friend from a few miles up the road. North Carolina, which sits a few percentage points behind Duke at 6-1, will enter Cameroon Indoor Stadium to give the teams an opportunity to reclaim the best rivalry in college basketball.