Exhausted Duke falls to Maryland 83-81

lkeeley@newsobserver.comFebruary 16, 2013 

— The Blue Devils were exhausted, Mike Krzyzewski said, from their “murderer’s row” of a schedule in the past week. Uneven performances against Boston College and UNC, though, didn’t result in losses. And, after a particularly uneven performance at Maryland, Duke still had a chance to win in the final minute.

But one final defensive lapse did Duke in, as Maryland’s Seth Allen sealed the 83-81 win with two free throws.

With the game tied 81-81 and 16 seconds left, the Terrapins called a play designed to get the ball to Alex Len, featuring a double screen on the baseline to free the big man. But Allen didn’t need any help, as he drove the lane past Quinn Cook, and Cook fouled him as a result.

Allen, a freshman, made both free throws to seal the win.

It was the final example of a problem the Blue Devils had all night: protecting their basket. Maryland shot 60 percent for the game, and 66.7 percent in the second half. Cook said that the Blue Devils didn’t communicate well on switches, didn’t rebound (the Terrapins held a 31-7 advantage on the defensive glass) and fouled too much.

Curry had another thought on the difference between Duke’s defense in the two halves.

“They were either getting a good look, or it was a foul,” he said. “The refs just took over the game in the second half. Calls started to change, and I guess we have to do a better job adjusting to how the game is being called. It’s just tough.”

Mason Plumlee having his worst game of the year didn’t help the defense. The senior scored just four points and pulled down three rebounds in 33 minutes. All five of his fouls came in the second half.

Len, who had heard from Maryland coach Mark Turgeon all week that he was Plumlee’s “little brother,” finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.

“This has been an exhausting schedule for our team since N.C. State (Feb. 7),” Krzyzewski said. “We’re playing on fumes, and I think you can tell that in Mason. I thought he looked exhausted the whole game. He’s been great. Obviously he was not good tonight. We’ll keep him. We believe in him.”

Plumlee’s off night forced the Blue Devils to use new lineup combinations. At one point, Alex Murphy was playing center.

“There is no strategy really, in this,” Krzyzewski. “You’re trying to survive. You’re trying to get five guys out there to fight, and there was a lot of improvisation done in this game as a result of not being able to do the normal things that we’ve been doing. Our kids reacted well to them. New out of bounds, new half court stuff or whatever because the lineups that we played.”

The Blue Devils never led in the second half and trailed by as many as 10 points. Duke was down by eight points with less than two minutes remaining, but two Seth Curry 3s—he led Duke with 25 points—closed the gap to 80-78 with 58 seconds left. Curry had an open jump shot on the Blue Devils’ next possession, but it wouldn’t fall.

“I knew it was in,” Curry said of the shot that missed. “I started my back pedal like it was down already, and it just rimmed out on me. Frustrating.”

After Rasheed Sulaimon hit three pressure free throws to tie the game at 81-81, and Allen responded with two of his own, Duke had another near-miss on the final play of the game. After Allen made his free throws with two seconds remaining on the clock, Duke had one last shot, and Cook heaved up the prayer near halfcourt.

“I thought it was in,” Krzyzewski said.

It hit the rim, closing a tough week for Duke that started with a blizzard at Boston College, moved to an emotional matchup with North Carolina, and closed with possibly the Blue Devils’ last trip to College Park.

“It’s been a murderer’s row for our team, and we ended up 3-1 in it without Ryan,” Krzyzewski said, including the N.C. State win. “That says a lot for my guys.”

See the box score from the game

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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