GREENSBORO – Maryland is going, but it certainly isn’t gone just yet.
The seventh-seeded Terrapins pulled the upset of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, controlling second-seeded and second-ranked Duke, 83-74, in a quarterfinals matchup Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum.
Maryland, playing in its last ACC Tournament before heading to the Big Ten next season, never trailed against the Blue Devils.
The Terps likely needed a victory against Duke to even be in the conversation to make the NCAA Tournament.
“I thought Maryland was a hungry team. I didn’t think we were hungry (Friday),” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “A hungry team, they’re trying to survive, and they played like it.”
Guard Dez Wells scored a career-high 30 points to propel Maryland (22-11) to its biggest victory of the season. Four other Terrapins scored 10 points.
Duke (27-5) lost its first game of the season when forward Ryan Kelly played.
The Blue Devils, normally an excellent shooting team, stayed cold all night. Duke shot 10-for-30 in the first half and made only four of its 25 attempts from behind the arc, a palpable disappointment for a team that was hoping to sew up a No. 1 seed for next week’s NCAA Tournament.
“It’s very disappointing, you know, because the great Duke teams of the past made statements in this tournament,” Duke point guard Quinn Cook said. “They had great momentum going into the NCAA Tournament. Just to lose our first game here is disappointing.”
Despite Maryland opening the game on a 12-2 run and Duke shooting 33 percent in the first half, the Blue Devils went into halftime down a manageable eight points.
Tyler Thornton hit a jumper to cap a 10-2 run and bring Duke within two points of the Terrapins just more than four minutes into the second half, but Maryland guard Seth Allen responded with a basket on the next possession.
At the 13-minute mark, Kelly hit a layup and was fouled to bring Duke within one, but Maryland scored points on its next three trips down the court. Then, with 9:37 remaining, Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon hit a runner in the lane to close within four as it seemed inevitable Duke would overtake the lead.
Yet again, though, the Terps matched. Center Alex Len completed an inside-outside sequence with a pass to Nick Faust, who hit an open 3-pointer.
Duke never came closer the rest of the way.
“The thing that we have had just a really hard time with is playing with any type of poise,” Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said of the Terrapins’ constant responses. “... We couldn’t have done that three weeks ago.”
Mason Plumlee led the Blue Devils with 19 points, while Sulaimon, who had been in a slump as of late, scored 16 points off the bench.
Seth Curry scored 15 points for the Blue Devils, who scored 40 points in the paint.
“A team like them, they have so many shooters, so we just wanted to stay attached to the shooters,” Allen said. “... Most games they lose, they shoot (less than) 24 percent from the 3-point line, and that’s what they did (Friday).”
Though Duke played its worst game in a while, the Blue Devils weren’t panicking. At the same time, Duke’s players said it can’t have any more efforts like Friday and expect to make it to next weekend.
“There’s not time to start questioning things, but at the same time, we have to right the ship going forward,” Plumlee said. “If this happens next week, we’re done.”
Coming into the game, Duke was the best 3-point shooting team in the ACC and the top squad in 3-point defense.
It didn’t look like it Friday, but Krzyzewski said that is what can happen when desperation is added into the mix.
“That’s why stats and all that are things people like to play around with, but when people are put in a position where they have to win, a lot of times they elevate,” Krzyzewski said. “And that’s what Maryland did (Friday).”
Regardless of the stats sheet or even Duke’s effort, Krzyzewski said the credit has to go to Maryland.
“A lot of teams in that position sometimes get nervous, or they make a lot of mistakes, and instead, Maryland kind of rose to the occasion,” Krzyzewksi said. “A lot about (Friday) is not us, about what we didn’t do. It’s about Maryland.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org