In My Opinion

Fowler: Duke's big run never materialized

sfowler@charlotteobserver.comMarch 15, 2013 

NC State, Virginia, ACC, Greensboro

Duke's coaches, from left, Steve Wojciechowski, Mike Krzyzewski, Chris Collins, Jeff Capel, and Nate James watch during the second half of Maryland's 83-74 victory over Duke in the quarterfinals of the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum Friday, March 15, 2013.

ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— The entire arena was waiting.

Maryland fans. Duke fans. North Carolina fans waiting for the Tar Heels to play. No matter the affiliation, everyone at the Greensboro Coliseum kept waiting for the Duke run.

Because Duke couldn’t go down this easily, could it? Not in an ACC quarterfinal. Not with Ryan Kelly in the lineup. Not to a Maryland team that went 8-10 in the ACC.

Yes, it could – Maryland stunned the Blue Devils 83-74 to move into the semifinals.

Playing with the urgency of a team that knew it was on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament, Maryland never let a Blue Devil wave wash over them. Coliseum. Duke, shooting an abysmal 4-for-25 on three 3-pointers, may well have changed itself from a No. 1 to a No.2 NCAA seed in the process.

We had seen much of this game six days before, with Duke playing the other role. The Blue Devils scored the first 14 points against North Carolina, played the rest of the game evenly and walked off with a 16-point victory in Chapel Hill. Everyone kept waiting for the Tar Heel run that never came.

This time Maryland leaped to a 12-2 lead and just kept maintaining. Every time Duke caught almost all the way up, here came Dez Wells with another leaner in the lane or Alex Len with another dunk or another three-pointer when Duke double-teamed inside.

It wasn’t completely unexpected. Duke and Maryland had split in the regular season, with both teams winning at home. But Duke – ranked No. 2 in the country and also seeded No. 2 in this tournament – played each of those games without Kelly. The Blue Devils came into this ACC quarterfinal 18-0 with Kelly in the lineup and 9-4 without him.

But Duke wasn’t Duke for most of the game. Seth Curry was good late, but he didn’t score for the first 22 minutes. The 3-pointers that the Blue Devils routinely hit kept rattling out.

The first half set the tone. Krzyzewski called a timeout only a couple of minutes into the game with his team already trailing 5-0. “Get over here!” he yelled to his players.

They got over there all right, but it didn’t do much good. With Wells scoring 16 first-half points – of Maryland’s 12 baskets in the half, he scored seven of them and assisted on three others – the Terps just kept getting more confident.

Duke looked uncharacteristically flummoxed in the first 20 minutes, very unlike the Duke teams that won the ACC tourney title the past three times the event was held in Greensboro. Curry didn’t score, Plumlee had three turnovers and Kelly was only 1-for-5 shooting. Still, the Blue Devils stayed within striking distance. Rasheed Sulaimon was most of the offense, scoring 12 of Duke’s 26 first-half points.

Duke had its chances in the second half, cutting the margin all the way to one midway through and having a couple of shots to slice the Maryland lead to three points late. But it just never happened, and the ACC tournament had its first major upset.

Scott Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @Scott_Fowler

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